He used to say that he was born where people go to die. “Which in hindsight seems a bit strange considering all the times I thought I was actually going to die. And none of those times were in Florida.”
This KNOWvember has been a good one on many levels. The people I have met and the stories (and confessions) I have heard would most certainly make numerous great scenes in a really surreal movie. If only I had recorded them. But here’s the thing, I never took notes while I was talking to the person, instead I listened. In doing so, I discovered something about myself. I’m actually interested in what people have to say.
Today is the last day of this social experiment, blood-pressure rising challenge that last year I swore I’d never do again. This is day 30. And it’s raining. And we have to drive home. And traffic was worse than we anticipated. And then it snowed! Yes, it snowed. And then we finally got home, and I got a call from someone in dire need of pastoral care. And then...well.
If you’ve read this far then you probably have figured out I didn’t meet anyone new. Which isn’t actually true, because I did meet a woman in Golden Gate park who was looking for her dog Babe, a black Labrador who escaped from her collar. She was wearing a Johns Hopkins t-shirt and scrubs, and under different circumstances I would have asked her all sorts of questions. And you would be reading about her instead of this excuse.
Yet, if the goal is to meet 30 new people in 30 days, then yes this woman would qualify. However, I did meet someone else who is “new” or at least new-ish. And that person is me. The people I have met have not only shared their story with me, but have also helped me shape my own story and my reason for doing this crazy thing.
Part of this discovery started the week I started KNOWvember when I accepted an amazing gift from a friend who is a life coach. Her gift is a Life Mastery program that helps me to see who I really am and to learn how to embrace my truths to grow my ministry and turn my dreams into my new reality. In these last few weeks I have come to learn, discover, and grow from all the new things I am realizing within me. So I am me, but new-ish.
This might sound like a cheeky excuse, and in some ways it could be. Yet some of you might not really know stuff about me. We might be friends on Facebook, or you might be someone who reads my blog or watches my online ministry. But do you really know me? Have you taken the time to ask me questions like, “What was it like growing up the black sheep of your family?” Or perhaps you might want to know “How did you get that scar?” Or “what on earth made you get that tattoo?”
So here’s some stuff about me. I am a Pisces. I like food. I love coffee and candy. I really enjoy praying and mediation. And I’m a bit of a Jesus freak. In fact, I was once interviewed by a local newspaper where I was quoted as saying, “basically I am a Jesus loving anarchist.” I had no idea they would publish that, but they did. And it’s not far from the truth. I am also a cancer survivor who believes in miracles.
I am the youngest of four kids. Grew up in a small beach town on the Gulf of Mexico. My parents are still married. And so am I...to my second wife. I have always had a pretty good understanding of myself, and confidently piss people off because I speak honestly and truthfully. More recently I have also learned to do that more lovingly. I hate guns, and really don’t care about the 2nd Amendment. I stole a car once. And knocked my best friend out cold with one punch to the face. I like to walk, not run. And feel mostly at home in or next to bodies of water.
I play guitar. I taught myself piano. I’ve recorded a record with a great friend. I like music. In fact I love music, but I couldn’t tell you the name of a song or even what the album is called. I couldn’t even do that with the record I recorded. I also butcher lyrics. I used to dream about what it might be like to be a rock star. And then I met hundreds of rock stars, some very famous and some no body ever heard of, and realized I like the life I have been living. I am happy with that decision. And really have no regrets outside wishing I could make amends to all the people I have hurt. Some of my ex’s are lawyers - something I fear unreasonably. I married the girl of my dreams, and I still dream about her at least once a week.
I’ve learned that life is truly like a box of chocolates, and I know the guy who wrote that in a movie; earning him an Academy Award. I have seen things and done things that I shouldn’t have done, but in the process I believe those things made me who I am today and most certainly where the stepping stones that led me to my deep faith. I stopped fearing death, but instead decided to embrace life if only for a good story. I have many good stories. Some are so good that they have caused people to accuse me of being a liar. I can live with that. Because I know who I am, and who I am called to be. But I only know this because I have taken the time to get to know me, and allowed myself to be transformed in the process.
Unlike the many people I met and have interviewed I can honestly say that I am not an open book. If you want to check me out of the library then you might discover I am a good read.
Yes, I swore I would never do KNOWvember again. Yet I also know myself well enough to know that I will go out tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day after that to meet someone new who might make my life’s story that much better. Who knows, maybe I will make an impact in their life story.
Ian was an uncommon name when I was growing up, but Ian had a best friend growing up whose name was the same. A few years later, the two befriended another guy name Ian, and well that’s about it. He’s 26, and as he put it, “Ian is like the 90’s version of Chad.” With a strong Scottish fist name, I was surprised to learn Ian had a generic Jewish last name, Levy. As in Ian Levy, stand up comic. He is a stand up comic who works in a comic book shop. “The jokes will just write themselves.”
Ian’s a middle child, number two of three. He comes from Sacramento, CA the state’s Capitol. There he had a pretty normal life with parents who were “neo-liberal hippies.” His dad, who is from Glasgow, Scotland is one of “a small number of Scottish Jews, and he’s an accountant. So there’s a lot of material there.” His mom is a newspaper editor, who also homeschooled her three kids.
Ian moved to SF in 2012, to study digital media production at California State University San Francisco (the same college my daughter just applied to). Go Gators! He’s worked in the comic book shop for three months after being a regular visitor there. But after watching his father hate his own career to feed his family, Ian left media to pursuit comedy. “Google Ian Levy standup” and you can see my story. “I am an open book. Literally, my life is all in my stand up routine.”
I haven’t seen his clips yet, but Ian assures me they are a lot better than his first time on stage. It was an open mic night at a radio program called the Mutiny. He was last on the list, and there were only four people left in the audience when the person before him was on. Those four got up to leave but the woman who ran the venue begged them to stay telling them it was his first time on stage and “he could use your support.” Ian confessed “while they didn’t laugh they did nod at all the right parts.” From one Ian to another, I confessed that happens to me every time I get on stage to preach.
In 1985, I walked into a record store in Rockville, Maryland. I was wearing a name tag on my jacket for the company I worked for. The guy in the shop said, “Hey, my name is Ian too!” He said it with the same inflation and excitement as this Ian, the comic who works in a comic book shop. He added, “And I worked at Johnson’s too!”
Turns out it was Ian MacKaye from the punk band Minor Threat. Because of my name, and where I worked I was put on the guest list that night at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC to see Ian’s new band Embrace - a band that eventually morphed into Fugazi. But that’s a different story for a different time.
Walking down Irving Street, the sun was going down. The sun was setting through the dark clouds. People still walked passed me and didn’t say hello or smile back. I can only assume none of them were named Ian. As I walked past the familiar shops and restaurants, I wondered if other people who share the same name bond like this. Jennifer’s get alone with other Jennifer’s the same way Ian’s do? Probably not because I know they can’t agree on what to be called Jen, Jenni, Jenny, or Jennifer or how to spell it.
For the most part every Ian I’ve ever met I’ve liked. Today’s Ian, like Ian MacKaye, was very nice, approachable, intentional, mindful, and enjoyable to talk to. I like to imagine that if we all showed the same kindness and generosity to one another no matter what our name, or where we’re from, or who we are or what we listen to. We could be the names that change the world!
Thank you Ian Levy, stand up comic and a stand up kind of guy.
I guess you might say Pamela is my sister in law in law. That is she is recently married to my brother in law’s brother Brian. We had the pleasure of sitting across the table from one another at Thanksgiving. This is a big task. Because there are 61 other people sitting there. Most, if not all, I know because I married into this family.
Pamela (pa-Mel-a) hails from Mexico City but met Brian in Houston eleven years ago. But it wasn’t until the two were ready to move to Oregon from Hamburg, Germany that they decided it was time to get married. There’s was the wedding I wanted. Quick and to the point. The fact they did it in Denmark made theirs even more awesome.
How did they get from Huston to Hamburg to Beaverton, OR? That’s what I wanted to know.
Barley three months into their courtship, Brian got a job offer with an engineering firm in Hamburg. This forever bachelor and Peruvian playboy invited his girlfriend to move with him. “Ok. Why not?” answered this Mexico City native. She was done acting, tired of singing in night clubs, and in need of a new adventure. “I took a risk, but isn’t it what life is all about. Taking risks?”
Raised by their mother she and her little brother would learn how to live life by the seat of their pants. Both learned how to be independent at an early age. In college she studied psychology, but her university also had great acting and singing workshops. She loved both the creative and the intellectual sides of her brain. At twenty she was working on her first American film “on this side of the border.” It was here she learned how to really take hold of her life and live it fully. “I left Mexico for a week on my visa and met with a guy in the US who I worked with in the film. It was before Facebook so my mom didn’t know I was in another country with an older man. She thought I was at the beach with my cousin (who was in on the lie).
For the last decade she had worked as a Life Coach - which allowed her to work in Germany and now in the US without having to retrain in a different language. She worked for a non-profit company that helps “expats” transition to new environments. Like me, her work is done virtually from her home.
When you come to a new place, meet new people (and not just one or two or ten but close to sixty other people), and carry on conversations in Spanish, Catalonian, and English you have to be on you game. Pamela was and is that woman who can pull it off with a smile. An amazing conversationalist, singer, and human being I am glad she is related to me by way of marriage to someone who is related to my sister in law’s husband. This is how strangers become more than friends...they become Family.
The shear silence of this beautiful machine was enough to want me to meet whoever this person was behind the helmet. And when I saw it to be a short, much older woman I couldn’t help myself but to stop what I was doing to ask her some questions. She agreed to answer three.
Question #1: Do people often freak out because they can’t hear you coming? I felt like I wasted a valuable question because already assumed the answer. “All the time. But I’m pretty aggressive with the horn.” I knew that because that’s what you have to do in the city. It doesn’t matter what you drive, you have to always be ready to honk in San Francisco, where Beth has lived for over 40 years.
It was cold on the corner down the street from where my wife grew up. That’s typical of the neighborhood, as well as San Francisco itself. This is where Mark Twain famously said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco.” Beth wasn’t bundled up so much, but she didn’t want to stick around for my weird social experiment. But she obliged me for two more questions.
Question #2 What got you to this particular electric motorcycle? “I always had a scooter so when I saw this bike I knew I had to have it.” And I could understand why. The Zero-s is a beautifully sculpted piece of machinery. “It’s what street riding is meant to be,” boast the website. “It’s pure stealth.” But here’s the thing, while I didn’t hear Beth pull up...all eyes were on her bike. So I’m not so sure stealth is the right description.
Beth told me, “I want to help the environment, but really I just hate traffic.” It was the latter which led her to abandoned her car nearly 20 years ago. She’s all about “splitting lanes.” For those who don’t know or don’t have this law in their state, it’s legal in California to drive between the lanes of traffic. “It’s dangerous, but it shaves off a heck of a lot of time in your commute.”
It’s not your typical motorcycle. But then again, Beth was not your typical “biker chick” either. Bright, clear blue eyes that popped against her pure white hair. And a smile that was equally as bright as it was white. From her small frame came a powerful voice that made up for both her and the machine which I learned from the site, “strips away the noise, fumes, and vibration.” The wind began to pick up and both our noises were already going from pink to red.
Question #3 Where would you take this if you could go anywhere? “I hate the highway. I’m 63, and I can’t go the distance anymore. Anyway, have a Happy Thanksgiving and good luck with your experiment.” I suspect she could have gone the distance with this interview. But it was cold, and the night before Thanksgiving. The line in the supermarket was 20 people deep.
Beth is my 27th person I have intentionally met this month. While most of these meetings have been long, wonderful conversations, they don’t always have to be. Not every person you meet will be a surprise hit, like “Beth” was for Kiss. But each one has the potential to make someone’s day. As cold as it was outside, Beth warmed my heart and got me thinking maybe I’m not to old to ride a motorcycle. My wife, mom, and kids might have a different opinion however.
But it’s KNOWvember, and there had to be someone worth meeting. There was Aarika Wells, the docent, historian, and artist in residence. Gladys an artistic cow who is the town greeter. And some dude who is the glass blower and whose name I forgot to write down. But that’s okay.
At the end of the day, it really was the town that was worth meeting!
Harmony was founded in 1869 around several dairy ranches and the creamery. The operation changed hands repeatedly because of rivalries that led to a killing. In 1907, owners and rancher agreed to call off their feud and call the town by his present name as a symbol of their truce. all agreed to live in harmony and from this name the town was derived.
In it’s hay day the village boasted a large residence for management bunk houses for employees of the Harmony Valley Co., a general store, a livery and stable, a blacksmith and feed store, a post office and a school house. Eventually the dairy business shifted a little further south to San Luis Obispo and in the late 1950’s, Harmony Dairy closed down.
For many years the town was abandoned, with the exception of the post office. And in 1972, restoration began to bring back the beauty and vitality of the Harmony of years past. Today it’s more of an arts colony, and a winery up the hill. There are tons of spots to take pictures for Facebook and Instagram. Including a beautiful chapel and gladys’ cow friends who make up 4 of 101 cows created by local artist for the San Luis Obispo Cow Parade of 2016.
Hospitality was not his first job. He’s been a mortician. He ran the crematorium for a while. And after his first marriage bit the dust, Dan took a job watching a parking lot. “I didn’t have to do anything. Zero. Just be there. It gave me time to read a lot of books. (Judging by the numerous times Dan ran out to get a book from his car to show me I reckon he likes to read).
It was while nursing his wounds from his first marriage that Dan began “to experiment with new age thinking.” Which was interesting to me because he told me he had been baptized twice already. A story all of its own.
But it makes sense he’d go down that route. He liked trying things and learning new things a seeing how it’s all connected. His life began a bit disconnected with a mom in Long Island, NY and a dad he never met who lived in Santa Barbara. Mom was a Christian (who he saved and now she’s a super Christian...part of the other story). Dad was a swami, as Dan would come to discover after getting kicked out of his house for causing a riot in his high school (once again a whole other story). “It’s no wonder I like religion. I got both eastern and western religions in me.”
But there is so much more to this man who just turned 60 on my sister in law’s birthday. He also dabbles in video production, and had a YouTube channel with hundreds of videos he’s made over the last six years. “While working the parking lot I met a man who had a show on Public Access. He invited me to see his set. When I saw take a blank room and turn it into a show I just had to learn that.”
This is Dan’s creative side. He enjoys taking footage off the internet and recutting with music. He has also shot his own footage for a local show he did here, “like postcards from Santa Barbara.”
In this weird little space Dan has found his niche, a canvas where he can create. And the world is watching. Some of his videos have 200 views and other 2 million views. “They won’t watch public access in Santa Barbara, but they watch my stuff about it.”
Something about strangers getting to know someone from their work that they post online that fascinates me. I wonder why? However I am glad I got to know Dan. He is the man!
Not many people begin a conversation like that, but I was amused and intrigued, if only because here I am standing yet again in a driveway looking at another person’s choices in life and trying to figure out how to get the story out of this woman with an interesting Irish brogue.
As it turns out it was easy. Because Liz is very easy going. She is the sister of a neighbor I never met. He was a doctor. And not just any doctor but one of the leading cardiologists of his day. His heart gave out earlier this year and Liz (and her husband Declan) came from Galway, Ireland to close his estate.
“He was always saving up. This was his big investment,” she said pointing to the piles of clothes that would have made Goodwill green with envy. I found out quickly that the doctor never married. But it took some time to get Liz to tell me when she got married. “1982.” And they have remained married because, as Liz told me, “we’re not steamy and romantic, but we work well with each other.” The romance of an accountant and a computer coder in the Regan years.
Not long after they said their vows, she and Declan set out to change the world together; spending most of that time in the Middle East. “We lived in Jordan, Qatar, UAE, and Saudi Arabia.” They raised two children as expatriates, which in case you didn’t know are people who reside in a country other than their own. Liz did it for 15 years, but by the time they’ll kids were teenagers she and Declan felt it was time to go home and be with family.
Home however was different now. Everyone had grown up. Mom and Dad were gone “way too early.” Liz is number five of eleven children and was used to making peace between the siblings. Her brother, the doctor was the oldest, and he like to make war at times. “He was the Colonel and loved to order us around.” Would that make Liz the sergeant? If so she is certainly not like the boot camp, screaming in your face kind. In fact, she is an inviting, hospitable, gentle, and kind woman who just so happens to be a great listener, and a wonderful storyteller like my Irish father-in-law.
After settling them in Ireland, Liz and Declan has to go back to Saudi Arabia to finish out their last of their jobs. Not long afterwards twenty terrorists hijacked four US airplanes and changed the world forever. Liz and her husband eventually got out of their contracts and headed home.
Later Liz would become a “mature student,” returning to university a few years ago to study chemical biology. She worked in that field for a couple of years after receiving her diploma. Before her brother’s health began to decline. Being who she is, and knowing how important family is, Liz and Declan put their jobs on hiatus, and came over to care for the doctor who had no one else to care for him. And now they are finishing the last of it, taking care of his estate.
Liz liked the idea of meeting strangers and completely obliged to partake in the challenge (with the exception having her picture taken). “There are a lot of peace-makers out there, and you have to keep going because the world needs you.”
As I walked home with a vintage brown leather jacket that I wasn't sure was for men or women, I thought about what Liz had to say. We got to keep on going, taking care of those we love and those we don’t even know. “It’s probably the best way to heal the brokenness that has infected us all.” I couldn’t agree more. Free advice. And a free jacket. It was a good day.
Speaking of hell, our Congress has spent the past couple of weeks questioning people about the President’s use of quid pro quo to get information on a political rival. The world has tuned in to hear the statements from diplomats and career civil servants hoping to learn the truth. After all, the President’s reputation is on the line.
In today’s reading from Luke, we get an unembellished statement from a man whose reputation is also on the line. His is profoundly poignant - especially given its context. The one who asked the question is overjoyed because the answer he receives reveals the truth he had hoped for.
READ LUKE 23:32-43
Last week we spoke of hope. And now on the last Sunday of the church calendar, as we celebrate the Reign of Christ, Jesus offers the world hope like it’s no one’s business. In his final statement to another human being Jesus tells a confessed criminal, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Jesus is the diplomat of God’s grace. The ambassador of love. A statesman for salvation. This shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus began his ministry announcing the kingdom of God to the world, and now at the end of his short life he shows us what that kingdom looks like. Often in the most unorthodox of ways.
“Jesus was pretty weird,” writes Todd Brewer in a recent essay on Mockingbird. “Jesus laughed off death threats, and he regularly insulted his dinner hosts. He held a patent disregard for social conventions. And when he had the chance, he did or said the last thing people expected. He must have been incredibly infuriating to be around.” Sound like anyone you know?
The priest and politicians deemed Jesus a threat, because he represents and embodies God’s grace - the greatest threat to anyone who reigns over people with fear instead of love. Even in his final minutes of life Jesus practice what he preached – showing what real grace looks like to those who believe they aren’t worthy to receive it.
This begs the question, “Who among us is worthy?”
Jesus says you are worthy. God loves us all no matter what. Hanging on the cross is proof of that love. Sadly, we waste so much energy believing that we are unworthy. So, we avoid God as if God is keeping score. Or hiding in the bushes to catch us.
If what Jesus says is true, if God’s grace is real, and God’s love is abundant, then what does that say to those who doubt or mock Jesus from their cross? Are they any less worthy than the ones who recognize him?
There are some folks who say yes. They don’t want to believe that “all” people deserve God’s grace. Muslims, Hindus, Democrats, or your weird gun-toting uncle who spews conspiracy-theories whenever you’re around. Who wants to share eternity with them?
In a recent Facebook post, a friend made a comment about not wanting to live in heaven next door to the kid who killed two students last week at Saugus High. She preferred he be “in substandard housing in a really warm climate.”
But then another asked, “Does this kid get more of a pass because he was messed-up?” This got me thinking. God didn’t mess this world up, we did. God didn’t teach this boy to hate, we did. We made a place for him where violence and killing is normalized. Who needs God’s grace more than this him?
In her book Accidental Saints, Nadia Bolz-Weber confessed she was reluctant to recognize the Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza among those killed. But then she realized “that the light of Christ cannot, will not, shall not be overcome by that darkness. Not by Herod, and not by Adam Lanza. The light of Christ is so bright that it shines even for me and even for them.”
It’s hard to think God loves mean, angry, bad people. But if God is alive in all, then no one can be left out. The grace of God that is revealed in Christ is so deep and so abiding, that even to those who disappoint can receive it if they want it.
Some might call this fake news. But to me, it’s the good news. The gospel Jesus proclaimed when he ushered in the kingdom of God. A kingdom where prodigals are forgiven, lost sheep are found, people are restored, and those who are condemned can claim God’s mercy and grace if they want it.
Christ has shown me God’s Kingdom is like a dad who never gave up when his son screwed up. Or a mother who patiently loved her daughter through those difficult years. It’s like my wife who forgives me not because she’s committed to loving me for better or worse, but because she too has received undeserved grace. She knows the power of claiming it…if she wants.
Congress can debate the usage of quid pro quo, but Jesus knows God plays by a different set of rules. You see, God’s grace is not transactional. It’s transformational. It has nothing to do with what we did to deserve it. But it has everything to do with those who want it.
Here is a person who does not taunt or mock Jesus with royal titles, but simply addresses him by his name. Jesus. A name which means “God saves.” And more precisely, “God is rescue.” I don’t know if that criminal knew Jesus is the embodiment of God's salvation and rescue, but he wants it. The very last thing this dying man does is to speak “the name that is above all names” (Phil. 2:9). And today he is with Christ in paradise.
I want you to remember this as you go out into the world. God’s love is infinite. So too is God’s grace. There is plenty for everyone – not just those who recognize who Jesus is but even for those who mock him. If they want it.
But if you accept it, remember that grace is God’s way of saying, “I’m not interested in what you’ve done but what you are doing right now, today, in this paradise.” Jesus has already died. We have already received the benefits of his sacrifice. Now it’s up us to go and be the presence of God’s greatest gift for others .
Today it’s up to us to go be weird like Jesus, who showed us how to sit with others in their sorrow, how to celebrate in their joy, and feed their hunger for something other than what this world offers. It doesn’t matter which side of the cross they are on, to care for the least of our brothers and sisters is to care for Jesus himself.
As we move towards Advent, we do so with the cross of Christ in front of us and the hope that it sheds light on. It is our reminder that God love is real. And God’s grace is real. The life that Jesus invites us to live is an everlasting life that begins today. If you want it, God says it’s yours.
Today, let us call on the name of Jesus, to make his name our statement in the world. This means to be a diplomate and ambassador of Christ and proclaim the truth of God’s love in all that we do.
Today, I invite you to see and do what Jesus did, so the narrow path expands and the doors of the Kingdom are pushed wide open for anyone who desires to enter into paradise.
Bartlett, David L. and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word, Year C. Vol. 4. (Westminster John Knox: 2010) pp. 332-337.
Bolz-Weber, Nadia. Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People. (Convergent: 2015) p. 78.
Brewer, Todd. The Elusive Strangeness of Jesus. Mocking Bird: Nov. 19, 2019. (accessed 11/19/19) https://mbird.com/2019/11/the-elusive-strangeness-of-jesus
There were metal toy trucks from the 1940’s, miniature doll furniture from the 50’s, antiques from every era, and a Hillary Clinton puppet – from the Senator collection. We laughed about how it could have been worth something had it been Candidate Hilary or even Sec. Clinton. “Nobody wants the senators anymore.” You see, Sue has a great sense of humor.
I suspect she got her quick whit from the same place she got her smile and her heart of gold. “My mom was a funny Jew. And my dad, an Irish Catholic. Not very common 50 years ago, not even in Bergen County New Jersey. Born and raised there, Sue always wanted to live in California. “It just took a little longer than I had planned.” Eight years ago she finally made the move; switching states and careers in one move.
I didn’t ask her what the reason was for her moving, but it didn’t seem like an impetuous decision. On her wrists are the words from a song she heard right before making the move; “Faith of the heart. Strength of the soul.” A day after arriving she got the tattoos.
Once an accountant, Sue has spent the last five years working with people who have eating disorders, and substance abuse issues. When I asked her to tell me about the hardest part of her job she said, “At first I couldn’t bring medicine to work because that was considered contraband to the addicts. Now that I work with eating disorders, I can’t have my Diet Coke.” While it didn’t seem politically correct to laugh at other people’s problems, we decided it was okay to bond over another good laugh.
As I told her about this project, Sue was right there with me. She said, “My mother used to say you’ve never met a stranger.” I asked her what she meant by that and Sue told me that everywhere she goes, she runs into someone she knows. On a private tour of the Vatican, she ran into an old friend who was on another tour. When she was at a football game in England, someone she knew was four rows behind her. Bermuda, Jamaica, Las Vegas…the list went on. “You better not break any laws or do something you shouldn’t do," her mother would tell her, "because someone you know might be watching you.”
And isn’t that what getting to know people is all about? I mean, imagine a community where you know your neighbors, and not only share laughs but to be there for them and to watch out for them. This is the kind of world I want to live in. Sue is on board with me. She took the first step of moving into our neighborhood. I took the next step to meet her. Yes, it happened while all those strange, stuffed birds were staring at me…but like her mom used to say, "you never met a stranger," instead I met a new friend.
Both are born and raised in different neighborhoods of L.A. Both have immigrant parents. And both social workers. Victoria works for a family clinic and Gerry, after 30 years of doing family and child advocacy work, teaches field classes at UCLA where he is a Bruins alumni. She is USC Trojan. The two biggest rivals on the West Coast, yet they make that work. At least until tomorrow when their respective schools will battle it out in the gridiron.
Ironically, the two of them met by accident as well. A much happier accident than the one today. First of all, they like to tell people they met when Victoria put an ad on Craig’s List Personals looking for “some arm candy” to take to a wedding she didn’t want to attend alone. Gerry was that guy.
The real story is they met at a work conference in downtown Los Angeles. She was living and working in New York, which meant that they had a long-distance relationship for the first of the three years they have been together. They would FaceTime daily, but also kept and sent one another journal entries that they wrote. Super cute!
Their real, real story is even better than the first two simply because it happened a year before they ever met. Victoria, who was on the social workers cycling team at USC, was getting ready to do a charity ride. One of her team members asked her if she would pin a photo of his dear friend who had just passed away to the back of his jersey. Victoria obliged and then spent the rest of the ride staring at that man wondering who he was.
Well, as happy accidents tend to work out, that man just so happened to be Gerry’s dad. She would not know it until they were already dating. “Seems like my dad wanted us to meet.”
I doubt his dad wanted him to meet the back of that car, but I am glad he did. As Victoria said, “This put a happy ending on an unhappy event.” I would agree.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”