I am scared.

Surrender your fear. Something will come that is greater than what the fear is trying to protect. Mooji

I am scared.

What does it mean to be scared or to be fearful? To not know what is behind that unopened door begging us to enter through it? Mooji nails it. I know for me – my fear is trying to protect me, but protect me from what?

Perhaps it is my age and I am feeling more mortal now than I did as that twenty-year old who went parachuting with several other university residence friends. Could it be I evaluate the number of good years remaining in a way I didn’t when I was that carefree student and my whole life appeared ahead of me while backpacking in Europe equipped with a pre-paid Eurail pass and American Express Travelers Cheques safely tucked away in my money belt? When the cheques ran out however, I wasn’t so carefree!

That twenty-year old didn’t concern himself with weighty philosophical thoughts of; “Will I be loved or remembered” when I am gone. Nor did I ponder how it would all end. Although, it is somewhat amusing that I write this now at 30,000 feet and undergoing significant turbulence over Thunder Bay – but I digress …

Like you I feel that I have much remaining to accomplish and wonder if time will permit me to do so. No, I am not expecting to build empires, create any wonders of the world or even pen an international best seller but the latter objective would be nice to see to fruition. Nevertheless, I feel there is unfinished business.

Thankfully, I successfully closed off a once painful chapter in my life. I ended a bitter forty-two year estrangement from my father a mere five months prior to his passing – see #whenwallsbecomebridges. Still, as I reflect now, that was too short a time in a feeble attempt to compress forty-two years into five months. But I am deeply grateful for those final five months.

How many other ill feelings exist amongst our fellow travellers – friends or family alike? What other animosities percolate within our very being eating away at our internal peace and serenity? Don’t discount psychological and physiological damage caused by our own self-inflicted: bitterness, smugness, stubbornness or even envy. We have a choice to make the first and numerous additional attempts at reconciliation before that choice is taken away. My ensuing fear however was not that MY choice may be gone, but that the other party’s choice would be – and that is what THEY have to live with forever.

But what if one can surrender that fear as Mooji states? This new belief I try to have in myself has the capability to cast a smile upon my face and warmth through to my soul.

One of the greatest lessons taught to me is of letting go of things not mine to own.

It is drawn from mindfulness and that my responsibilities are not yours or vice versa. Your walls are not my obligation to deconstruct into bridges. They are for you to rectify if you so desire.

Fear is just another wall we erect in our life. Our job is to thwart them and when we successfully do, well, it is joyful and emancipating.

What “will come that is greater than fear” as Mooji’s states? I think it is internal peace. And looking at the following affirmation, who is responsible for our peace? Not a single part of that is dependent upon anyone but oneself.

In the end only three things matter: How much you loved, how much you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you. Buddha

So I do try not to be scared and fearful. I don’t always succeed but the truth of this intention guides me to constantly progress.

We are awesome

Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness. People are just people, and all people have faults and shortcomings, but all of us are born with a basic goodness — Anne Frank

 

I often found myself standing in admiration, respect and simply in awe of my fellow searchers and other volunteers doing all they could to bring Kaden home. I would speak in loud praises of their leadership, accomplishment and unswerving dedication to the sacred cause and task at hand. Yet when they bestowed similar compliments upon me I would shyly play down my limited role. And so too did mostly everyone else upon hearing their accolades spoken and proclaimed.

On Saturday May 5th, the best possible result of that “sacred cause and task at hand” was completed – a community memorial service took place in Orangeville Ontario for Kaden – the forevermore 3-year old. A private funeral was held several days earlier. Out there in the rugged and dense woods where over two months ago these were violently flooded lands from the overflowing Grand River that claimed Kaden’s young life, we often talked and hoped that this precious soul could be found and returned home to his family – and we could then attend such a gathering. We finally did. We finally did.

A soulful minister took the podium, and she asked all the searchers present in that church of hundreds to rise and stand up. I proudly and slowly rose up from my seat and stood with the others and looked around at them all. Before the minister was done extolling all those present who did their part big or small, the entire sanctuary was on their feet. It was an exquisite site to behold.

The family shared for us at the service a video montage of Kaden. For most present in that church, we never previously knew Kaden or his family and this video presentation was our sole opportunity to see this beautiful young boy in action. And he was full of action. I especially loved seeing him play in the water park – just like any 3-year old would. The video hit us hard. That stark realization was so painfully evident for all to see, that in an instant, a life can be gone – any life. We are all susceptible to that. Who didn’t go home from church that morning and hug their loved ones a bit tighter and tell people we loved them when normally we mightn’t have?

Later that evening, during a get-together for the volunteers, I was outside speaking to one of the young women who I met on the search. She was admiring all those who had assembled. She said, “They are awesome”. Finally, it hit me – WE ARE AWESOME – I said to her.

Over the past few days I have come to learn more about the reasons why some people came out in the search for Kaden. They shared some deeply personal and touching stories that moved me to tears each time. Know that you are awesome.

But why at times do we allow the good things we do to be overshadowed by our human failings? I know that we don’t always do “good things” all the time – me included for sure. We can often be so bloody self-critical and we beat ourselves up – and I am not sure why. Everyone is awesome but we are not perfect, we make mistakes.

My wish is that we face our daily life with the knowledge and acknowledgement that we are awesome though we might still encounter moments of self-doubt. Nonetheless we are awesome and we strive to be awesome even during those difficult moments. I think we proved that to ourselves in the search for Kaden.

Recognize your own greatness in your life. Be proud of your accomplishments – especially what you did in searching for Kaden. It is okay to do so, and it is a great step towards self-love – something we could all use a bit more of from time to time.

YOU are awesome – WE are awesome.

Oh, and I had a reason or two as well … We all did!

It is time for light

People came from near and far

One goal in mind, we got in the car

Many were skilled, some were green

But for most of us, we’ve never seen,

 

We battled through and fought the weather

Mother Nature was tough as leather

Downed trees covered in ice

Muscles ached we paid the price,

 

After we awake when things fall

With pain severe beyond anything at all

The day is dark as broadly as the night

And despite our search, still not in sight,

 

The next day arrives we begin anew

Hope is high amongst the crew

With vigour as strong as a UFC champ

Assembled together to embark from base camp,

 

Breakfast is served, coffee is hot

Some Gatorade and later soup in a pot

Even provided each hand with a warm glove

Driven by one simple thought – that is love,

 

After we awake when things fall

With pain severe beyond anything at all

The day is dark as broadly as the night

And despite our search, still not in sight,

 

We confronted fear, and felt your pain

As hard as it was, we’d do it all again

Parents in distress, we want to help end it

Tough to watch but did not break our spirit

 

Boots on the ground, boots on the ground

The call went out and more came around

We dug, used hoses, together we responded

And then something happened, people bonded

 

After we awake when things fall

With pain severe beyond anything at all

The day is dark as broadly as the night

And despite our search, still not in sight,

 

Two months is too long too painful and unfair

We could never give up, please God answer our prayer

This day was hard, many swinging an axe

Much clearing to be done, no time to relax,

 

We were dirty, wounded and energy spent

A day like that day was no laid-back event

It is getting late, where do we go now

Any negative feelings we must disavow,

 

After we awake when things fall

With pain severe beyond anything at all

The day is dark as broadly as the night

And despite our search, still not in sight,

 

Back to base camp, you know this sound

The word went out, Kaden was found,

 

We gathered together, first time post search

On Belwood Bridge next time will be church

We hugged and hugged, cried but relieved

Finally, Kaden could be properly grieved

 

Yet something changed, the mood had shifted

It appeared dear friends a great weight lifted

The common experience that we shared

Is our binding ingredient, nothing spared

 

After we awake when things fall

With pain severe beyond anything at all

The day is dark as broadly as the night

But with our search now ended, it is time for light.

Finally – the funeral awaits.

Driving back to base (Kaden’s home) from the search on Saturday with the teacher from Mississauga, we talked about our day and the frustration that all the searchers felt at the end of these days – Kaden was still not found.  That poor little boy was still out there somewhere, his parents, family and dear friends of the family, grief-stricken, heartbroken and have to endure yet another night alone with their private thoughts of which few can even possibly imagine.

We spoke of a funeral we could not wait to finally take place. We yearn for it and all that it would represent.  Our faces lit up at the thought. Yes, at this stage and this day, two months to the day that Kaden went missing – that would be a wonderful and blessed outcome indeed.

The teacher pulled up to the side of the road. We slowly exited the car to walk the 30 metres up to the house to gather with the rest of the group.  Another day of searching completed.

We could see Jim (a superb team lead) coming towards us along the road with a surprising look of joy, a fast paced gait and “high fiving”, not the norm after a difficult day of intense physicality not to mention the emotional strain of it all.  At first I thought he was thanking us for another day of hard, exhaustive work, something great leaders do.

“WE GOT HIM, WE GOT HIM, WE GOT HIM”, Jim ecstatically proclaimed over and over again.

WHAT? It didn’t register at first. What did he mean, “we got him”?

Overflowing tears and hugs exploded amongst all present. I don’t even know half the people whose arms I collapsed into and they into mine.  From family members and family friends to chiseled and hardened outdoorsmen – we were all a sobbing, hugging mess. Later I turned to the British woman standing alone and off to the side and asked how she was. “I am numb. Just numb”.

As the news sunk in, while many were constantly hugging and needing to be close to the others, I could see a few people who chose to be alone, who either sat on the porch, on a rock in the garden, or like the British woman, standing and numb.

Unexpectedly, to me, Kaden’s mother came out to speak to us. I can’t write about that.

I do feel sorry for the hundreds of other searchers who could not be there yesterday.  I was out only five times, yet why did I merit to be there on this magical fifth day? You could not all be there, but trust me – you were in soul. Every one of you, whether you came out but one time like Lindsay who I met yesterday, to the almost daily searchers, your presence was there with us on Saturday April 21st. What you all did will stay with you and Kaden’s family for a lifetime.

I met many special people over these past number of weeks, the names I can recall are; Brian, Paula, Cara, Paul, Kim, Wawa, Jim, Cindy and our awesome leader Richard. It was Richard’s radio interview I heard that brought me out the first time. There are many more of you to be sure like that strapping and soulful 32 year old man breaking ice beside me on Saturday. He truly helped me dig as thoroughly as I could.

I was waiting for Wawa and Shawn to return, these two dynamic, dedicated and resolute leaders were coming back to the house together – I could not leave until I could spend a few private moments with Shawn who I became very close with.  I think many of you reading this know what Shawn and Wawa meant to all of us.

Shawn was my last goodbye on Saturday before heading to the car and back home.

I can’t wait to see many of you again very soon, at the funeral.

 

What brought you out?

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

This week marked the 50th anniversary of the slaying of one of the most impactful human beings of the twentieth century. As I began to write this piece and searched for the most apropos quote to begin it with, it was no coincidence that I stumbled upon this quote by #MLK.   I don’t believe in coincidences. While I have no intention to mention Dr. King again here, yet in our sacred search for Kaden Young, #bringKadenhome, I have met so many great and inspirational human beings. People who are serving. People with a heart full of grace. Souls complete with compassion and love. And an imbued resolve by so many that in my experience – is unsurpassed.

Last Sunday was a tough day. They are all tough days when they end and Kaden isn’t found. The countless volunteers are heartbroken at the day’s conclusion, but also endure many heart stopping moments throughout the search.

I had several on Sunday.

There was extensive dense brush, fallen trees, broken branches, vines and bark all strewn about among the once flooded land of last February. If one is not dodging the ricochet of live branches in your face while trudging between trees you are tripping on the multitude of loose and not so loose vegetation upon the uneven ground. There are potential hiding places everywhere. Maybe Kaden is beneath one of them. And on a couple of occasions last Sunday, just as I had feared the week prior, I had an eerie feeling that I was going to find Kaden perhaps between those two fallen trees that had formed a little wooden tunnel or amongst the pile of an extraordinarily dense thicket of deadwood. Many of those with whom I spoke on my first couple of trips there proclaimed their preference to NOT BE the one to find Kaden – my sentiment as well. I should say, that WAS my sentiment. As the days pass and Kaden is yet to be found, more of us want to be the one to find him. And we are ready to find him and deal with it.

But in that thicket, I was working alongside a young man. And in those contemplative moments between the volunteers, the vast majority who have never before met one another, we often ask the other one, “What brought you out?”

He told me, that several years earlier, a friend of his died in a river accident. When he heard of Kaden, he just had to come out and help. But he wasn’t finished. He became choked up, turned towards me and said, “My brother was supposed to join him.”

One man, around my age has a knee that isn’t what it used to be. No kidding! A visit to my Chiropractor today proved that my body is not what it used to be either! He has to stop after so many steps to give his knee just that little bit of rest to allow him to keep carrying one. And he does – admirably and as fixated as anyone on finding Kaden. He is one of the many past and current firefighters I have met who just need to add their expertise to the search. I love all First Responders and have the utmost respect for them.

The mothers of young children … oh there are so many of them out there searching.   I needn’t tell you what brought them out.

The volunteers talk about many things out there and not all of it is about our sacred task. But I personally value the opportunity to get to know you and to learn of what drives you. It is an honour to be working along side you. And you don’t have to tell me why you are there if you choose not to. You simply are and that is what makes you great.

#bringKadenhome

Goodbyes hurt the most when the story is not finished and the book has been closed.

Unattributed.

 

They hurt even more when the book has not been closed.

Such was the heart-rending radio interview I heard driving to work last Friday morning. A plea for volunteers to assist in the search for 3-year old Kaden Young of Waldemar Ontario, swept out of his mothers arms by raging floodwaters of the Grand River on February 21st. As of this writing, he (his body) has not been found; leaving behind a family in excruciating pain. Kaden was a life that did not have the chance to live out fully and a book that cannot yet be closed. Never before had I ever contemplated inserting myself into such an undertaking, but I was drawn in this time and Saturday morning I drove to Waldemar not knowing what was in store.

I was afraid.

I am a “city guy” in my late 50’s, fit but with a wonky back, never a fan of camping, have a poor sense of direction and my idea of being outdoors is riding my road bike along a street, path or trail in Toronto, Southern Ontario or the Canadian Rockies. What do I know about being around a partially frozen river, the brush and a forest in below zero temperatures searching for a deceased child? Those are the physical fears I had. The emotional ones – well – you can only imagine. More on that later.

But I made the choice to be in Waldemar by 9am on Saturday morning – about a 70-minute drive northwest from my home in central Toronto.

In my backpack I had; protein bars, a clementine, a banana, a peanut butter sandwich on gluten-free bread, water, a change of socks, a roll of toilet paper, Band-Aids, a Swiss army knife and most importantly, a battery back up for my iPhone. I was wearing my relatively new hiking boots I purchased on a recent business trip to Calgary. Long underwear was a must, several layers of upper body clothing, a toque embossed with the mystic symbol Ohm and earmuffs as well. In addition, I brought two pairs of gloves to wear one over the other. Oh, and one Manchester United scarf. Yep, quite the city boy in the woods!

I was ready … a recurring theme in my life.

So there I was standing amongst dozens of people at the base camp of the search, Kaden’s home, listening to Richard the group leader, review instructions for the day. First and foremost, the safety of each and every one of us was paramount despite what we were there to do. And he told us what to do and what not to do, when we find Kaden.

I can’t begin to describe the people who were there, many who had been searching for Kaden since Day 1. Remarkable souls. Dedicated to the task. They were from the surrounding area of Waldemar / Orangeville, Guelph, Cambridge, Peterborough, Tillsonburg and many other locales as well. A vast majority, who like me were not related to the family and had no connection to them whatsoever. But unlike me, most were true outdoors women and men. They could read a terrain as Galileo could read the stars in the sky, track the path of where the floodwaters had washed through, and decipher sounds in the cold air, as could an always-alert deer.

I had stayed a bit behind the others with our team leader Shawn while he was checking some things out (safety first) and Brian stayed back of the others to wait for the two of us to catch up. With the three now together, Brian alerted us to what he was hearing in the distance. It was the distinct noise of ravens or crows making repeated and excited croak / shrill sounds. Shawn went forward to investigate. Brian and I nervously remained where we were waiting for Shawn to return. Those were anxious and fearful moments – about fifteen minutes actually to think about what or who might be out there.

We often talked in two’s or amongst the group about our mission. We were there to bring Kaden home. None of us that I heard from however, wanted to be the one to find him. In my mind, I was there so another would be in a different place in the field or forest where Kaden was. That was my role. At least that is how I motivated myself to be doing what I was doing. There were times on my first day in particular where I felt the trepidation of pulling back some debris or searching under a fallen tree and not knowing if that impending action would uncover Kaden or a part of him as was graphically yet tenderly explained to the volunteers.

It was a deer bed surrounded with coyote tracks and birds feeding on a deer carcass.

I could go on but some of it is too emotional to delve into.

Why did I go?

All I had to do was to make a choice.

Alternatively I could have gone to the gym, watched golf, taken a nap or written a blogpost – but certainly not this one!! Still, all I could think about was how dare I not go out? I was already contemplating this in my mind and I had sent an email to the group telling them I would be there. If I didn’t go, it would be a betrayal – to me. That is just how I felt about it.

So what are you afraid of? What is holding you back in life? And I am not implying you should be going to find Kaden, but if you are so inclined, I promise you, there will be no regrets.

Are you afraid of the unknown as I was? How it will turn out? Should you be doing something else? These are questions we face every day in many aspects of our life.

So, we prepare the best as possible. We absorb all the information we can get our hands on and make a decision with the optimal information we have at the time.

Everything for a reason. Everything for a purpose. We just don’t fully understand.

P.S. You can follow #bringKadenhome and learn about search information on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/208839769860904/

 

An alley way all too familiar …

I have been here before or so it seems

The familiar cobblestone sections of intricate means

Windows closed so tight to seal out intruders

But leaky enough allowing a multitude of rumours,

 

Passing through town, an unlikely spot

Meeting a woman thinking I’ll give it a shot

She finds me witty, gritty but pretty?

Very alluring – gladly no time for committee,

 

I take her hand and we go for a stroll

Looking here and there but no grassy knoll

She finds this alley – a mysterious route

Another hundred metres to be rid of my suit,

 

Around to the left, the first door on the right

I bid adieu to you there, but it wasn’t the night

A nightcap you queried, I happily agreed

One became two, fulfilled a common need,

 

This is Sunday morning – few are around

Some go to church, others avoid to be found

Behind closed doors lay couples in love

Passion on fire, bodies thereof,

 

Rumours indeed, I’ve started a few

Are these windows sealed through and through?

I love this old town, bursting with tales

Magnificent design, a woman’s fancy nails.

 

 

Youthful Einsteins

“Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.” David Bowie

Most of us have been there before, “If I only knew then what I know now.” Wouldn’t we all be frickin geniuses were we to apply that latter life knowledge to our past ignorance’s and unintended errors? But in addition to not knowing many things we wish we’d known, there must be more to this idiom than just knowledge. Some attribute it to experience and or maturity – yet I don’t entirely buy that. As I have confronted my own fears and in the process bared myself to new ideas, concepts and pseudo-philosophies these past several years, it is not merely within the purview of the mature that I have learned these matters. I am often in awe of – let’s label them (oh I hate labels) the Millennials – who themselves possess vast stores of mindful wisdom. How is it that such wisdom is acquired at a relatively early age? I have watched their YouTube videos or the like of these youthful Einsteins and the messages I heard belie the youth-like image of the vessel in which the message is elucidated. Speaking of Einstein, his manifest “Miracle Year”, the year in which he wrote among other papers the famous E=mc² and the theory of relativity, he was but 26 years old.

That we can all become Einstein’s is preposterous yet many of us can concede our particular failings and grow out from them at any age. The mere fact that I learned something at fifty meant I was capable at thirty or even younger. I myself may not have been ready to learn then but that is another story.

So what is it that holds us back? What imprisons and entraps us? Could it be we try to live up to the “Joneses” not merely in material acquisitions but also more profoundly trying to fit in with the crowd by hiding our own and unique authenticity? What if so-and-so found out we liked country music when they thought we were rap fan enthusiasts through and through? Perhaps we hid our love of entertainment wrestling because we thought it would be weird within our circle. What if they thought we were religious and we were not? What if we are living a lie?

We are a fearful species. We fear negative judgement and will do almost anything to prevent it from occurring. One question to ask ourselves is; who are “they” that we fear? Who gives them such power over us? And what would happen if they found out our secret? There is that judgement again.

Fear guides us. Fear often controls us. Fear shapes our daily interactions with the world. Fear drives our suspicions. Fear creates prejudice within us. Fear is of the unknown.

So we needn’t get older to know who we are and to begin to rid ourselves of fear. What is prerequisite is to break negative habits that have been a part of us for years and years. Aging however might be that catalyst of “enough is enough”; I don’t want or need to absorb this self-inflicted shit upon myself any further. Perhaps that is where aging helps. But aging is not essential to determine who we are. Look at and be inspired by youth. Some of them figured this out long before we did or have. The sooner we begin to recognize our walls, the sooner we can break them down, be free and happier more content human beings. That potential is within each one of us.

 

 

Once taboo – previously forbidden

You dared venture into something, somewhere, unnatural and unfamiliar. Once taboo – previously forbidden.

But you are different now …

You were also different before …

Fear is now in the past …

You know what fear is about. It had controlled you and stymied you. Experiences you craved were inaccessible. Friends you could have made you never met. Places that fashioned curiosity were only left to your imagination. Architectural and artistic masterpieces were bereft of your awareness. A forbidden relationship or intimacy desired, lingered on unrequited.

Fast forward.

An invitation was accepted. You were willing to let the experience become a part of you without any preconditions, reservations or fearful expectations. You welcomed that opportunity to see what it was all about and were not concerned of what others thought – or judged.

You observed a plethora of souls young and old. As racially diverse as anything you had hitherto witnessed. While the enthusiasts indulged, you studied at first and then slowly you became as one with the assemblage. You were also struck by the surprising similarities to what you knew and were familiar. Surprised? Why?

In the end, you were the same and you were not. You left with a peace not present upon entering. But the confidence in you was breathtaking, fresh and alive. You emerged declaring; “I am special” for indeed you are.

——————————————————————————————————

Well enough about you.

On October 16th I officially released my book WHEN WALLS BECOME BRIDGES, A Journey of Discovery to Heal and Conquer Hatred. That week was a personal celebration made exquisite by the warmth, companionship and love shared by so many. It was a remarkable journey. It was hard. There was pain. There was joy. And it all continues …

And it was and is fun.

Frank and I were privileged to appear on CTV News Channel. If you missed the broadcast you can view it here and yes you will hear it correctly, I was called Stuart Little – once.

Recently the Chronicle Herald of Nova Scotia published my story in Conversations, a Q & A article that you can read here if you are so inclined.

Of course, my book and ebook is now available for sale. You can follow the link http://whenwallsbecomebridges.com/purchase/ to discover the different ways to purchase it.

And now I could use your help.

If you have read my book, I would greatly appreciate you posting a review on Goodreads.

If you belong to a book club, I would welcome an opportunity to speak at your club and do a book signing – and selling of course.

If your place of business, worship or organization are interested in my book or a talk that would be wonderful.

If you come across a bookstore that you feel would be perfect for WHEN WALLS BECOME BRIDGES please drop me a line here. It doesn’t matter where the bookstore is located.

And I thank you for your patience, indulgence and comments as I continue to navigate our world.

Wishing you joy and discovery in your life.

Stuart

Renounce

Renounce

 

Why do we follow the lost,

For it is us who incur cost,

The ones with anger to bait,

The muddled souls of hate.

 

We know it’s a lie,

Yet still look on and sigh,

A failed leader’s mission,

Truths of parochial vision.

 

A crowd of like-minded,

Compliant nectar of the blinded,

The fruits of the sheep,

A path of least friction runs deep.

 

I renounce that which is old,

Discredited, weary and not bold,

It is not from without that I fear,

But those internal opinions held so dear.

 

It doesn’t function anymore,

You know wisdom’s your core,

Don’t be like the rest,

It is time to accentuate your best.

 

I dream of the day,

You will see things another way,

Until that moment is now,

Hope you resolve to discover how.

www.whenwallsbecomebridges.com