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A Note About 365 From the DW/BFF

September 12, 2012

Hi Everyone, this is Richard’s DW /BFF.  I have been thinking about what I could do for Richard today on his last post for this leg of his 365 journey, but all that has come to my mind is the thought that I should let you know just how much this project has meant to him, and how much it has affected our family. The advantage of having access to the back-end of this blog makes it easy for me to do this without him knowing — I love surprises!

A little over a year ago, Richard started kicking around the idea of doing this project… he was seeking for a meaningful expression of his art, and after a late night 2am viewing of Julia & Julia (gotta love Netflix streaming), the genesis of the idea came together.  After about two months of hearing about it, I finally said to him, “Just pick a date and do it!”  He picked the date, but that date ultimately found him on the East Coast, second guessing, wavering…  but thanks to his flight home with a random, classic sitcom traveling companion, he made the leap and began his journey.

I will say that had I known (had either of us known), just how much of a sacrifice this project was going to take, I don’t think I would have pushed him to get going on it.  I think that is one of God’s true blessings to us — not always showing us just what the journey is going to entail, for if He did, we would never embark… but having embarked, we cannot turn back and despite the challenges that come our way, we come to the end and look back at  the journey with gratitude for the experiences and growth that are now forever ours.

I have not had the pleasure of meeting all the people that Richard has had the opportunity to meet — and yes, how did he put it?…I am a little more skeptical about walking up to total strangers and striking up a conversation… and asking them searching questions…and requesting that I  take their photo…and post it on my blog…  Richard is truly amazing to me.  I don’t have his gift for doing what he can do, however, I do believe in Richard’s quest.

Richard has always looked for the good in people — sometimes, almost to a fault  (thus we are getting hounded by telephone sales people these days because he could not help striking up a friendly conversation with one of the callers. Did you know Richard used to work telephone sales in the 80s…   wait for it….   selling…    wait for it…    nail polish and lipstick — over the phone!  No wonder he has a soft spot for telemarkers).

All kidding aside, Richard has always had a kind heart and this project has helped him take that love and belief in his fellowman, meld it with his talent as a photographer and allow him to create a meaningful expression of what he feels and sees.

Although Richard has been on the front lines of this project, the blessings have extended over all of us in our little family.Yes, I have been a cheerleader for him and pushed him on days that he was less than enthusiastic about getting out there, but I am no angel —  he is too nice to tell you about the days that I would have won the Grouchy-Complaining-I Wish You Did Not Have to Go Out and Meet Someone Today-Aren’t You Finished Writing That Award, and for that I am truly sorry 😦    But despite my sometimes less-than-perfect attitude, I have always believed in Richard and his vision of 365.

I have always believed that everyone is born with a light, a goodness within them. For many that light glows bright, but for many, sometimes because of choices, or life, or circumstances or whatever, that light can get a little dim, perhaps almost gone. For many, having someone just notice their light helps their light to grow.  That is what 365 is about, at least for me —  slowing down a little and taking the time to look for and nurture the light –in both ourselves and our fellowman.

So thank you, Sweetheart, for embarking on the journey, for taking us with you and for your amazing example of not giving up.  We are with you wherever Operation 365 may go. You are a light for us.


Terri and your DD
PS:  Oh, and by the way, that comment in your last post… “I can also carry an unintended aura of arrogance. Most of my friends don’t see it…”  I had to smile as I read that — your friends prefer to use the term “control freak,”  never say it in front of you, usually accompany their comments with a smile and an eye roll…  and we all love you still. 🙂


365 Day 366 / “The Stranger Inside Myself”

September 11, 2012

Wow, this day has come way too fast… and exactly how do I express the impact “Project 365” has had on my life?

Intent is the word that wakes me this morning as my eyes cracked open and my mind began running its sleepy headed reflections, booting up while pondering just what to say in wrapping “Project 365.”

A very emotional task indeed, and in my reflections an unusual word creeps into my imagination… intent.

I’ll confess, I’m caught off guard. Why such a very technical word to explain a very emotional and spiritual journey? Yet the more I think about it the more I understand how it applies to the change that 365 has had on my life.

Although the inception of Project 365 was pure in desire to better understand my fellow human, and came from a very emotional core, there was a little strategy involved, for behind it was the whole SEO thing, and I figured that my reach-out would be good for my traffic, and give me something to share, not only with you, but with my potential clientele. An ethically thought-out win-win.

Wait, don’t sign off!  I am not a commercial dog… Project 365 has made that powerfully apparent to me. And while I feel tremendously blessed to have the business that I do, 365 has radically changed the way I do everything that I do, even managing my career. 365 has matured me more than I expected, and at fifty-one years of age, I feel as if I have passed through an enlightenment that has lifted the weight from years of disciplined learning off my shoulders.

More strange, since I’ve been on the journey, I have not sent one single promotional email, attended only one portfolio review to sell my work, and basically put the greater part of my energy into meeting the world around me, and in doing so I’ve focused as best as I can on not letting my priorities fixate on overworking to grow my business, and have looked away from the worries of life. I’m not stating that I have become irresponsible, quite the contrary, I’ve just reprioritized, and because of it, I will never be the same.

Intent, I say, the word reaches deep into my heart this early morning, (5:30am) as my fingers are at laptop keyboard. The pounding question in my heart, “Will you ever go back to past perspectives and slip away from the life attitude that 365 has provided you?”

My honest answer, I pray not, for through it I have realized that the wonderment of life is not so much in what we do, it is more about how we understand and who we become.

I’ve said many a time, “I am no Gandhi,” a great man of peace and courage, a man that would be impossible to measure up to. Yet, he taught us great lessons in tolerance, and proved to the world that having the courage to do the right thing does not necessarily translate to aggressive or self-centered behavior. I mean not to make my final entry a tribute to Gandhi, but to not mention the influence his example has had on my life would not be just. Nor do I mean to preach in any way, I promised you a revealing of how Project 365 has taught me about me.

Thus, back to intent… and why did I really go into my 365 year? I think Rabbi Mentz (Day 362, We Are On The Right Road) hit the nail on the head, “To discover myself,” true, but in the process, and more importantly, I discovered you and the world around me. Again Rabbi Mentz, “All souls are connected;” a belief that transcends into just about every traditional faith as well as untraditional perspectives on religion and spirituality. I know this first hand now, after approaching well over two thousand strangers and feeling of their acceptance. And yes, I also bore scorn or ridicule from many. The result, it’s not about me, it’s about, again, understanding.

Sure, in the first months of this blog challenge, I had no clue as to what was happening to me… and I still don’t. All that I know is my heart is softening, my mind is opening and my thoughts are becoming actions. Actions that are deeper than any physical act, and begin at the very starting point of my thinking processes. Something that I dream can happen to all the people whom I’ve grown to call the “silent majority.” Again, you and I… the real people.

With this call, I have to plug my challenge: Chin up and eyes open to the world for one year. Please say your hellos… and try to visualize your feet in the shoes, or footprint, of others… when you are lacking understanding, own the fact that we were all once infants, and question, “What happened to make this person that way.”

Also, it is so difficult to express tone in writing, so know that as I give this challenge, it is with a great smile and happiness to be able call you either friend or stranger. For in either case, it really matters not, “We are all in this thing together.”

Thanks for the indulgence, I’ll step off my soapbox.

Basically, all that I am… is one of you… a real person… with real joys… with real trials… with real fears and hurts… with real strengths and weaknesses… having my moments of genius and my moments of absolute stupidity… a real human, living in a real world.

I’m a bit of a skeptic as to how I feel about astrology, but for those of you who follow the Zodiac, I am a Taurus, you know me, the romantic bull in the china shop. And although I can be quite passionate, I can also carry an unintended aura of arrogance. Most of my friends don’t see it, but I know in my heart that my pride is my Achilles heal. So why do I reveal such an exposing statement? Because I have to. Again, another one of my 365 friends, Dez, Random Acts of Kindness, Day 128, who asked me if I think my blog is a form of narrative therapy… absolutely is the answer I can reply.

But the thing about it is the realization that the more I write about others, the more I discover myself. Christ said, “To find yourself, lose yourself in the service of your fellow-man.”

No comparison there, we already know that I am no Gandhi, and there is no way I will even try to compare myself to Christ. But, in his lesson can be found the key to greater self-understanding. That is, to really find out who we are… we need to look beyond ourselves and be willing to learn who others are. I know, it’s crazy and against every textbook on self-affirmation. But as hard to accept as this premise is, if practiced with an open mind and heart, it reveals itself in the most powerfully affirming ways.

It’s far too easy to get caught up in our own world and allow ourselves to disassociate with the lessons around us, a real problem in this virtual world, where we all are suspect to living vicariously in, or directed by, our digital domain. Not knocking it, technology is a wonderful tool… even a gift, for without it we would not be having this dialogue.

Yet, as amazing as it is for dropping boarders and bringing us all together, it is also Pandora’s box. A fact that has hit me squarely between the eyes over the last year as I have spent a minimum of three hours a day buried to the 365 screen, lost in typing away; even now, my daughter is sleeping on the floor beside me, her way of compromising in getting a bit of daddy time as he works on 365… again.

The upside, although my family has sacrificed much of my time, and even sometimes joined me in frustration when daddy misses dinnertime… again, we are all together in the cause of 365.

The blessing therein comes when I watch my little girl looking at the world with 365 eyes. She is not afraid of strangers, yet she is aware, and will not walk into harms way. Her mind is sharp and free of judgment, and she is confident enough to reach out and wise enough in knowing who to stay away from. She has no fear to be in the world, and (tears coming to my eyes), holds no contempt for anyone. Other than the usual, how come I don’t have that LPS?

My wife… although a bit more skeptical than I (and I love the balance she brings into our family) has continued to push me out of the house on the days that I was in the doldrums, and every time she did, both of us became at peace with the lessons learned through living up to the commitment we made in sacrificing our time to a cause greater than ourselves.

Thirty-years of fighting in building my small business —  a career that I love and continue to love and have neglected horribly in putting 365 at the front of the queue; strange as it may sound… it has blossomed. And, I am happy to say that this year has been a banner year. What does that say about letting go and trusting that higher power thing?

“To find yourself, lose yourself in the service of your fellow-man.” Amazing council that can be found in so many religions and life practices, but so scary to believe in, and even more difficult to practice in this modern world.

Two thousand people plus have I approached, and in all, two-thirds have spoken with me… many even embracing me. I’m humbled to the center of my very being, and every time that I speak with a stranger, even in the rejections, I have felt a peace that is hard to fully explain. The easiest explanation, “It is not about me and I am not alone.”

There was that repetitive song, “Don’t worry… be happy.” In its playful lyrics is great wisdom. Now, so you now, I worry a lot, I think most of us do… we’re human and impressionable.

And yes, the world is in trouble in so many ways. In it, it is so easy to become paralyzed and discouraged in turning to bury our heads in the sands of negative attitudes and behaviors. From vice… to isolation… to the creation of horribly defensive walls, the choices of defeat are endless.

I, too, am suspect, and often fall to the frustrations of the day. But 365 has challenged me, forced me to look a little deeper into any situation, trained me to breathe a little more relaxed and provoked me to listen a little longer, so hard for a Taurus dude to do… let alone an artist.

So back to intent, that driving subtext of life that we all possess, the stuff that move us to do what we do from the moment that we wake in the earliest hours, to the time we rest our heads on our sleeping pillow. 365 has held me accountable to examine my reason for doing all that I do and has taught me well.

The answer is lengthy and does not have a black and white conclusion, but it lies in this thing we call self-mastery. I have to state once more, most of the time I am a babbling idiot, but my greatest moments are those in which I can muster the strength to control my brain power, my fears and my hurts in simply letting go… to look… to listen… and allow myself and others to feel.

Yeah, life is tough, some days are terrible, but in equal balance,and if we are open, others days are magnificent. Hundreds of people have courageously shared of themselves with me over the last year. Both bright times and dark times have been had. From these experiences I have seen many sides of the equation of being human. I will not hold any punches, it is what it is… the world can rip the very essence of compassion and hope from any of our fragile spirits. But we have the tools to be part of a silently active army of the hopeful. And as many times we have said – the power of one is magnificent!

My dream in continuing forward with what is to come in  my outreach is pretty transparent, to share whatever I can to open our eyes to one another in a unified voice of inspiration and truth.

Absolutely, things are thrown at us and burdens are placed upon us, yet in the center of it all, light can be found, that is if we recognize it.

I’m no saint, I’ve screwed up a lot of things in my life, I’ll be the last to stand on any podium and profess of any grand answer to all of life’s questions. And without a doubt I am nowhere near where I thought I would be in life and am only just beginning to grasp the slightest clue of why I am here. But one thing is certain, after one year of reaching beyond my own problems, pushing past my fears and opening up to the many amazing people I’ve met over the last twelve months, I think I have met one very close stranger… me.

I will never be the same again… and 365 will never cease to exist.

Here is the tear I’ve been anticipating… for the final time of this project, “Talk tomorrow my friends.”

A quick swallow… the tear has past… and realization has hit… we will talk again my friends… the voyage is only beginning.

Operation 365 has set sail, building the technological back-end that will grow us closer. This time we will be able to hear from you… and how cool is that! We’re not done yet!

Awake and nnite my friends!

365 Day 365 / “Many Paths – One Journey – One Destination”

September 10, 2012

365 days of discovery, hundreds of photos of new friends and thousands of words written… I’ll not look at the world the same again. And, exactly who do I interview in completing my last day of a one year challenge; a challenge that has empowered me with a mission that has literally changed the course of my future, and has so enhanced my outlook on the world?

And now, I am face to face with the question that has been my weightiest thought for the last couple of weeks, finding someone who can encapsulate the unifying purpose in which 365 has uncovered? A quest for a spokesperson who strives for understanding, or at least has the chops to accept all sides of life’s arguments; one who can set the stage in summarizing the spirit of 365.

Like I said, my life is now empowered with a mission, and “Project 365” has proven to be the genesis in putting me at the helm of a greater voyage. A journey that is slated to travel a route of discovery through the upcoming launch of “Operation-365:” Its destination… to Awaken and Unite a new kind of global community.

Secondarily, we have also explored another question over the last twelve months, “What is a stranger?”

You’ve been with me as we have investigated the answer. It’s findings, there are strangers all around us. Perhaps they are the people we meet randomly in unknown places; or the people we notice from afar, always wanting to, but intimidated to approach; even could be people who are associated with other people we know, or those strangers we often overlook, you know, the one’s who regularly appear in the midst of our every day lives… yet somehow we never really take the time to fully introduce ourselves to them in finding our who they are.

So, as I have mentioned a few times, I am a cyclist and teach a spinning class several times a week. Been teaching it for about six years, and even though I know many of the faces in my classes, even first names of most of my hard-working cardio burning buddies, I don’t really know all that many of them. For the whole 365 project I’ve decided not to invite any of them to 365, telling myself, “That would be cheating.”

But today, I can govern myself no longer, for as I finish a one-hour session of sweat and peddling, an overwhelming magnetism to reach out to one of my newly regular class attendees, Denny, will not escape me.

He accepts with open arms, saying, “You are an answer to a prayer that my wife and I were having this morning.” This in itself catches me off guard and confirms of a notion that was shared with me only days ago, when Rabbi Mentz (Day 362: We Are On The Right Road) positioned, “Every soul is connected.”

Now I don’t want to get too spiritual or overly cosmic, but there is one thing I have grown to genuinely accept, and I am not saying that I am anywhere close to understanding it, is the fact that intuition is a real thing. And wherever our subconscious thoughts or hearts feelings come from, they are more powerfully correct than we comprehend. And Denny’s reaction to my reaching out to him, only solidifies that notion.

We are sweat drenched and I have no camera with me (was not intending to conduct any 365 interview during class, that’s just too uncool), so we agree to meet later at a coffee-house central to where we both live.

I would have never thought in a million years that I would conclude my 365 days of reaching out to strangers with someone whom I share space with on a regular basis. But even with this fact, I can shamefully admit that I regularly forget Denny’s name. And surely, I know nothing about him, other than small amounts of passing small talk, and the now inescapable prod of my frontal lobe pushing me to get to know him.

One thing I can certainly say, Denny is now a friend for life… and I will never forget his name again.

If you had the stage, the microphone is in your hands and the world was listening, what words of council, advice or wisdom would you share?
“First to breath deeply… for quite a few minutes, until you gather your thoughts… then to accept what is happening… and then to make adjustments.” Denny replies.

“There is a poet,” Denny adds, “’… I forget his name, but he said, ‘We start here and then we go full circle.’ What I get out of it is this, we come around… we come back to the same place where we started… but we know it anew… we know it differently.

That’s what the breathing and the acceptance and the adjustment is… I’m coming around full circle, and I have to adjust to a different life.

People are saying, ‘that’s sad… that all these things are ending… and they themselves are gonna end. But really the way to look at it is, ‘We are in the acceptance part, and the adjustment is coming.’

I think the answer is not to panic… to be patient… yeah, the situation is not going to change… so we have to accept it.

You can beat your head against the wall, and I have, but I wound up in a mental hospital, I wound up on drugs, and finally God said, ‘Are you finished… are you done… are you done messing around… just sit down… take a breath… accept it… learn from it… and adjust… its time to move on.

Know what you can’t fix… and know what you can.’”

Denny, has had a life of great trials, from physical, to emotional, to spiritual he hides none of his past. Yet in his eyes, and even though he is carrying a penny sized tumor that is growing in his Kidney, his eyelids are wide open to the joys of life, and in him can be seen the greatest of respect for the world around him. Yes, Denny is a banner bearer for optimism and a proclaimer of faith in humanity. He speaks as if people are at core… decent. And he believes that the works of any individual can yield magnificent results.

What about the future?
“The other words that are coming into my mind,” Denny charges us to action, “‘Become aware.’ Just become aware! Just by the fact that you become aware, you make adjustments.’

I think human beings haven’t changed from day one, and I don’t think they are going to. You can read from the oldest literature there is, including the scriptures, and your going to see similar human failings and situations… like the seven sacred sins of Gandhi. And these are things that are going to keep happening.'”

I look them up:
Wealth without Work.
Pleasure without Conscience.
Science without Humanity.
Knowledge without Character.
Politics without Principle.
Commerce without Morality.
Worship without Sacrifice.

“‘And I don’t know if we can change those things, but by bringing people’s attention to them… and their awareness of those things, we stand a greater change of spreading the peace.

I think that is what Jesus and all the great leaders did. He did not come in with an army, like they wanted him to, and wipe all the Romans out. He did it in love, and in acceptance… and people spit on him.

Pilot asked him, ‘What do you have to say for yourself?’ But he did not say anything, ‘It is as you said.’

For us to be able to just sit there, and for me that is so contrary to how I grew up – because I had to fight for everything. I mean I got suspended from school for fighting numerous times. I wasn’t going to let anybody push me around or intimidate me. Now I’m having to re-learn… and that’s hard. So I don’t see the world changing, because people are not going to change… but I think individuals can change.

Putting our arms around somebody else. With politics we cannot force people to change… so we can only love them to change. I did not grow up with love the way love should be. I’ve had to learn that through all the difficulties in life… these pains… the substance abuse… the jail. I did not know that I was learning. But, I knew that God had a goal for me over here, and that I had to go through this.

I think we can change… human nature… I think the writings will say that. But I think like God has directed us… living contrary to the world is the best way to save it.

Denny has spoken, and in his words can be found a limitless list of encouragements; advice that we all can take hold of in navigating our own destinies. And in his words is the motivation to carry forward good works and thoughts in considering our fellow humans.

The back window of Denny’s truck is covered with motivational stickers, “Pedal for Peace,” “Running – Cheaper than therapy,” “iHike.” But in all, one jumps forward, It reads, “Many Paths – One Journey – Same Destination.”

One more note about Denny, he can run and ride for hours. “I’m very competitive,” He confidently states. But in his confidence there can also be seen a peace in acceptance of his limitations. “If I’m tired, I don’t complain, no one want’s to hear that. Plus, it brings you and others down. It’s better to look on the bright side of things, and lean towards the positive energy.”

He shares with us his self-observed life commandments:
1. Watch what you put in your mouth!  Food, Alcohol, Prescription Drugs, etc.
2. Move your body till you sweat at least 60 minutes a day.
3. Hang with positive inspirational people: Books, authors, etc.
4. Love unconditionally family and friends.
5. Spend 45 minutes a day with your Higher Power (God). Half the time spent in listening.
6. Make the difference in at least 1 person’s life each day. Say or do something that makes them feel worthy.
7. Laugh daily and do not take yourself so serious. Don’t control life… let it come to you… evaluate, accept and adjust.
8. Use fewer words each day and listen more. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
9. Go somewhere spiritual once a week… mountains, beach, church, gardens, etc.
10. Let go of the hurt! We all have a little boy or little girl inside that has never forgotten. Deal with him/her! 🙂

Denny, I now know why I was told to let you wrap my 365 project. All you say makes sense.

There is almost a tear in my eye as I share my most common sign off, “Talk tomorrow my friends.”

But really, this is only a new beginning to a greater exploration. A global community is forming in a new digital continent. And I’m working on building the ship that will take us there. For now we will christen it Operation-365. You have not seen the vessel yet, but it has left port and will be coming to you very soon.

There is no need to pack, to get travel vaccinations or the worry about your itinerary. All that is asks of you to continue in keeping your chin up and eyes open to the world. For on it’s bow reads the theme of its activity director: Awake and Unite!

There is but yet one last stranger to introduce you to, and tomorrow you will meet him, who is he you wonder… myself.

Still one more time, “Talk tomorrow my friends… love you guys!”

365 Day 364 / “Reducing Our Cluttered Minds”

September 9, 2012

I can’t really say it is writers block, bit in writing today my mind is a little slowed, so I am just sitting here letting my typing fingers grab whatever they want. And for a guy who claims to not be a writer, it seems that over the last year, somehow my ten digit extremities have often taken over my mind, tapping into my subconscious. Today is one of those days.

There have been far too many experiences shared during 365; stories, advice and words from a huge list of new friends. People who have met us face on with their insight, their trusts and their life examples. The lists of circumstances, outlooks and personalities has been greatly varied, and now at one day away from the wrap of our first year of 365, it is a little difficult to articulate the depth of lessons learned, and of life perspectives changed. (Although, I am planning of giving you a full report of what I have found out about myself over the course of 365. Come back on day 366 if you are curious).

So as I say, my typing hands are driving today’s entry, perhaps they are transmitters of the warm handshakes felt from today’s strangers now friends, loving couple, Ethel and Victor. And as my fingertips rip away at the keyboard, I will not pledge that my typing has gotten any more accurate or my words-to-digit speed has increased. Although, what I will say is that they are a free flow of heart to text.

You’ve been with me several times when I have borrowed time away from game night with my daughter and friends. This evening marks one more of these outings. Ventura Boulevard, just North of Laurel Canyon. Lot’s of people – Lot’s of activity.

I walk with the usual grin to the world in nodding my head, accepting all that I pass. Some freak out, some ignore, others engage. I give myself the usual affirmation in promising myself to not profile and listen for any internal prompting to whom I should approach. But holding me back tonight is this nagging self–inflicted burden to be genius on this second to last day of Project 365. Yet, the more I try to find 365 nirvana; the more I realize that I cannot measure up to my expectation.

Outside the art gallery I pause, looking into the window, in it a room full of eclectic and edgy people. “Go in there,” I rationalize… anticipating finding an enlightening point-of-view. “They are all hip, modern and opinionated. That’s where you need to be.”

I walk in, and I won’t say that the air is not filled with articulating ambiance, but in it what I do feel is the cold fact that I am forcing myself too much in trying to seek.

My intent is pure, but my method is far from inspired. This tremendous want for a powerful wrap to our year of meeting strangers is robbing me of spontaneity.

And after speaking with, I think now, over six hundred formal interviewees and over one thousand candid conversations. I’ve heard and talked about a lot of stuff with a lot of different people. So is it a paralyzing head-trip in asking myself to find genius?

I think so!

So here I am, the conservative white middle class dude, standing, wearing camera backpack, smack dab in the middle of a forest of artistic people and admirers of modern art. Bottom line, who is the nerd in the middle of the room… the guy with the blank stare of self-realization. I grab a glimpse in my self-mirror and what I see just does not feel right. Out I go in submitting to the vibe of the sidewalk outside.

Here is where Ethel and Victor come in. Yeah, they are young, and yes they are hip, but there is no edge to them. For a second, I let my mind fool me once again, “No, Richard, pass on them, look for someone who is not part of the gallery scene.” But the further I pull from them, the louder the brain waves, “There are your friends, speak to them! NOW!”

Ethel says in her council to us, “Stay open.”

Not a paragraph of advice, not a list of to do’s or do not’s, and surely not a disclosure of deep secrets… just two common words,“ stay open…”

…Two words, however, that when combined have the power to ignite the grandest of discovery in any one of us… That is if we have the courage, and will power, to do so.

I think in a way, my being directed to Ethel and Victor is inspired. Neither speaks paragraphs of advice, but both get directly to topic in advising us.

Victor contributes, “Fight for your rights… fight with love… with respect. Love for the animals… and love for nature. And, try to have a more simple life.

But the most important thing is love.”

Love has been a universal want for almost every person I have spoken to, crazy, but true. It has been constant for all of 365. No matter who: Alcoholic, homeless, criminal, mother, daughter, father, businessman, teen, child, senior citizen, Jew, Christian, Muslim, Black, White, Yellow, Red. I could spend thousands of words and profiled demographical labels to list the diversity of those I have met. But that would just be wasting the energy that my typing fingers are giving to us. Plus, I’m sure you get the message… It is what we all desire.

But what is interesting in Victor’s call to “love one another” is his added comment, “And, try to have a more simple life.”

I inquire, “What do you mean a more simple life?”

He briefly answers, “’We are living in a culture where to consume is the most important thing. And that is really wrong… and it is really stupid. We live in a world with limited resources. And, we are living like we have infinite resources. That’s not true… we are destroying the world.

It’s like we are blind. Like Ethel is saying, ‘Open your eyes.’

We need to focus more on loving our neighbors, and reducing our cluttered minds.’”

Makes me even think about the way I was feeling only moments before, you know, when I was working my intellect in choosing to ignore the inspirations that my brain waves were throwing in directing me to Ethel and Victor.

Simplify… a really empowering concept if we adapt it to our very core in dropping as many preconceptions as we can. The world is full of amazing human beings; all individual, all with something unique to contribute and all carrying affirmations that we need to hear. People just like Ethel and Victor.

I ask about the future.

Victor’s outlook is a little dark, but there is a sense of irony as he makes his claim. Quite possibly he is using a bit of reverse psychology to get us to think. “In one year… same as now, but maybe worse; five years… very close to collapse; one hundred years… maybe we will not be here, and that will be so good for the planet.”

He smile as Ethel expands, “I don’t have the most positive vision about where we are going…” she chimes in, “…but I do think the one thing that will make a difference in the now, and in wherever we are going, is this idea of people coming together for community. Because when we are having trouble… that’s really the only thing that makes sense… working together.”

Back to Victor, “The idea is to think and to care. No individual… think like a group. Worry about… like I said before… respect of the nature; respect of the animals; respect of each other… Move forward… Open your mind and your eyes… and be informed.”

Ethel gives us a method, “Do not to be scared… I think people are so scared that they don’t want to know anything about what’s going on.”

“The ignorance…?” Victor searches for the right words. “…No not ignorance…” he pauses in thought, “…It’s that people don’t want to see… that’s the word… informed… That’s all…

One last note about Victor and Ethel. They have seen the world. Absolutely, they do live in Los Angeles… the United States. But what they bring to the table reaches far beyond American boarders, you see, both are new to County: Victor – Born in Chili, Raised in Spain; Ethel – Born and Raised in Japan.

Here we are… three people… five cultures represented.

“Richard, How do you get five cultures?”

I did not include myself, British/American. Five cultures… all together summing up one global message; a message of mutual respect, of desired unity and of dreams for a more of tolerant worldwide community (the love thy neighbor stuff).

Yep, it is second to last day of Project 365, and you know what…? I think I found the genius I was looking for in speaking with my new friend Ethel and Victor.

Talk tomorrow friends.

365 Day 363 / “Transformations Are Inspiring”

September 8, 2012

“If I had to boil it down into one sentence… that would be to treat your neighbor as you want to be treated,” say today’s stranger now friend, Steve.

Words that roll off the lips of so many of us, and words that are fundamental to the hope that many of us share. And at the very core of the sentiment is the reason that 365 has made it this far, only three days from the completion of its first year.

And Steve is one of those guys who has earned the chops to make the statement. You see, he has walked the walk of the rich and of the troubled, a life history that to the day of our meeting is challenging him to find who he is in settling into being a contributor to our world.

How did I meet Steve. Some of you may remember Pappy, another story of man facing demons of past decision and of growth to a higher place; and a man who is now a very important part of my life in continued friendship. A friendship that transcends all implications of class distinction and has grown beyond that of any assumed stereotypes. You see, Pappy is an ex-con and past gang banger; and now in his late fifties, with a history that would have destroyed the very soul of many, he has arisen to be a light to those who know him. And it is through Pappy that I am privileged to meet Steve.

No, Steve is not homeless, comes not from a gangster background, or showcases any body markings. He is a regular guy in many ways. A guy who most would pass by as a person living a charmed life – clean clothes, groomed dogs and a nice car.

“Then how does Steve link to Pappy?” you ask.

To answer, I’ll let Steve’s advice explain, “I think there is more goodness than bad out there. The bad gets the press… you know… like especially now, being political season, going into a presidential election. We keep hearing all this negative stuff about our candidates, or you learn about just how full of crap they all are.

“I’m prejudice… I want to believe all the good for one candidate and I want to believe all the bad for the other candidate.” Steve calls this observation, “Kind of interesting.”

“Kind of interesting,” a very curious summation in evaluating the hottest of issues, “Who will be the President of America.”

We’ll not get into that… my blog is not a political forum, and although we often reveal the outlooks of many on the subject, I wish not to allow it to become a place for debate of judgment toward the many strangers that we can now so openly call “friend.”

But what makes Steve special is not his political views, it’s his faith in self and in humanity. You see, Steve has seen the bottom, once a millionaire in the dot-com days, he has seen his wealth dissolve – stood by his wife in her battle with brain cancer, only to find chemical dependency and a failed marriage as the result. Steve has borne pains that are real, and through his courage to openly expose his past does he inspire those of us who are “regular” to realize there is more going on than one may realize.

So, how do Steve and Pappy connect? Pappy is very ill, looks like cancer, and for months Steve has been taking care of all of Pappy’s medical issues: helping him to find medical treatment, resolving his financial aid and securing his Federal/State insurance benefits. Even without enough money to meet his own needs, Steve regularly gives Pappy a few bucks here and there.

Now, I don’t want to make Steve out to be a saint in any way, or to make any innuendo that he is more charitable or a better person than any one of us. What I am saying is this, we are all connected. For Steve and I, it is through our concern for Pappy.

“I just watched Robert Downey Jr. in the Sherlock Holmes movies…” Steve visualizes as he speaks of the films antagonist, “…the whole reason for the world war that Sherlock Holmes stops is, as the villain says, ‘I don’t care who goes to war, I just want to supply the bullets and the bandages.’ He doesn’t care if he is hurting them or fixing them. He just wants to make the money.”

“Then there are other people who have a passion, that when there is a war, they’ll be the ones with the bandages, not out to make money, but to do good.

“I’m trying to not name names, but…” he shifts gears.

“…that’s what the answer seems to be… if you want to boil it down into just one sentence, ‘Just treat your neighbor as you want to be treated.’

“The other one would be, seeing that I am a dog person, ‘I always hope to be the person that I think my dogs thinks that I am.’

Samson, Steve, Sasha

“I guess by nature that I am a positive hopeful dude…” Steve reflects as he looks ahead, “…so speaking about the U.S. – I hope in five years we are not in war any longer. We can’t be a nation of prosperity when we are spending more money than we bring in, paying for war. So, that’s killing us.

“Killing the 98 percent… killing the 99 percent…”

This grabs my attention,“Your saying the 1 or 2 percent are the wealthy?”

“Yeah… I don’t know… I’m forty-eight, you don’t become forty-eight without having good times, bad times, ups and downs. And Looking back to the best of times it seems that I was part of a collective great thing that was going on. There was a lot of prosperity… and there was a lot of enjoyment out there… enthusiasm for the country… maybe even for the world.

“If we want to get global… I just said, I hope in five years the United States is not in war. But it’s not looking good that our planet isn’t going to be worse off than it is today… in five years. If you just take a look at what is being shown about what we are doing to our planet, and it doesn’t seem like the people that say, ‘It’s not happening…’ Like they don’t say, ‘That’s not happening.’ They just say, ‘That’s not going to cause what people say it will cause.’

“Everybody agrees that the icecaps are melting… but they are in denial that it is raising the temperature of our planet… our oceans especially. And without our oceans, we don’t survive.

“It just seems that those 1 to 2 percent, the biggest of the biggest companies in the world make money from producing energy. And there is just too much money in the stuff to stop destroying our planet. So I don’t know… how do you turn that around?

“But just for me, in my own little world, I have high hopes. I hope to be married with a family for the first time… developing a legacy… making enough money to pay my basic bills, that’s a stressful place to be. So if I could just turn that around a little. I don’t need a lot, but it sure would be nice.

“I think maybe for most people who have got themselves into my situation… to be debt free with a little safety net is a good start.”

Steve has ridden the top of the financial wave, making boatloads of new technology money, has weathered illness of a spouse, only to see the end of a marriage, and has sunk to the deepest despair in chemical and alcohol abuse.

But sitting, shaded from the heat of another hot summer day, I find wisdom of well-earned knowledge in Steve’s council.

I have to ask, because I know there are many in similar situations, “Steve do you mind if I publish the fact that you are recovering from dependency issues, and if so, what advice do you have for anyone battling addiction?”

He gladly accepts… “Get to a meeting… go every day when you don’t want to go, until you want to go… get there early and stay there late… and find somebody that tells your story and then go introduce yourself to that person…

‘They say get in the middle of the heard. It’s like… which animals get eaten in the jungle? It’s the ones on the fringe of the heard. The Antelope in the middle of the heard never gets eaten by the Lion, or Lioness. Just get in the middle of it.

“The Lion is the temptation, right?” I clarify.

“Yes…” Steve bridges to the realities of living with dependency issues, “It’s rough out there… there are a lot of reasons for people like me to drink and do drugs. It’s really painful out there right now… for me financially. For others it could be some other issue. And many times you just get to the point where you say, ‘I can’t do it anymore.’

“I’ve been to a lot of funerals this years, so if that’s your thing… I get it… I understand.

“Candidly, the only answer is to develop a relationship with a power greater than yourself. So that might not work for you… maybe God does not work for you. But in AA, we have a small book and a big book covering what we call the twelve and twelve. Step one is only four pages. The chapter in the big book called, ‘We the agnostics…’ there is a whole chapter, its like forty-seven pages. So if you have a problem with the God thing… you are in a much bigger group than people who believe.

“But you’ve got to find… because it is very clear that left to our own devices we will drink… absolutely drink… it’s too painful not to.

“That’s what I’ve been focusing on in the last twelve months is that relationship. I’ve been going back to Temple, that’s structured… it works for me… but mostly it’s my own perception.

“It’s my own perception” Steve concludes. And perception is a perfect word to finalize this post. For I see it remarkable how three people with uniquely different backgrounds such as Pappy, Steve and myself have found ground together, land that is stable, fertile with compassion and growing fruits of understanding.

Pappy, Steve, I can definitely say, our paths will cross again my friends. Your histories are rich and your transformations are inspiring.

365 Day 362 / “We Are On The Right Road”

September 7, 2012

After listening to my explained history of 365, Rabbi Mentz looks into my eyes… “You’re on a journey to find yourself.”

I cannot disagree, and in doing so, a peace fill my heart. A peace that I’m sure we all looking for. It’s that feeling of purpose, that joy of knowing that the path has meaning, and a freedom to accept the very things that frighten us. Those hidden dreams, un-faced secrets and desires for a better self.

And although Rabbi Mentz’s observation is directed specifically at me in beginning our conversation, the premise is universal. We are all on personal journeys. Some of us are aware of the course, while others of us are invisibly flailing our arms in grabbing whatever exterior source that says, “You are OK my child.”

Whatever the case, Rabbi Mentz accepts people for who they are and truly believes that all can become the full measure of their creation.

Rabbi Mentz is to the point and holds no contempt for anyone, or to any faith. And although he calls good, good and evil, evil, he is a true advocate for the sanctity of human life. Proclaiming of the consequences of both good and evil acts, thoughts and deeds.

In him is a deep conviction to his faith, a faith that with a blend of sincere compassion… married to a bold charisma, he challenges us to seek a greater light in all that we do, in inspiring us to take hold of our roots, of our healthy ambitions and of a trust in a loving G_D. For in his eyes can be seen a wondrous dream. A vision not for self-gain or of tribute from the many. But rather, of a hope for a united humanity, a wish for every human being to live free and able to feel of the happiness that all have right to enjoy.

Rabbi Mentz… thank you for allowing me the privilege to present you to the congregation of 365, the podium is yours my friend.

“’First thing I would say to everybody is… always look for good… in everybody. But do not allow evil to exist. If there is evil… like a cancer, the greatest love you can have for humanity is to get rid of that evil. If they are rapists, if they are robbers, if they are terrorists, and the greatest love you can have for humanity is… is to get rid of it.

Now there are two ways of getting rid of it. There is killing them, or there is educating them…

…Abraham opened up a tent for education, and that’s how he taught the whole world about G_D. He never lifted his sword… he never shot a bullet… but he did allow people to come into his tent and hear.

And through his brilliant arguments he transformed thousands, and became the greatest PR agent against paganism and for the word of G_D.

So, if I had something to say to the world… it would be to always look for the good in everybody… and believe that they can be transformed. But do not be hoodwinked… that just because they are evil… we have to be good to them, because if they are going to be a cancer to you… they are going to kill you.

The second thing I would say to the world… Is do not underestimate the power of any single human being; every single person is created by G_D, and there is a potential good in them.

Another thing that I would say to people… Never look for the light at the end of the tunnel. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. You’re dead when you’re at the end of the tunnel. A lot of people go and say of other religions, ‘Suffer, go through the tunnel, because when you die you will go to heaven.’ Is that why G_D put me into this world… to look for the end of it… into the tunnel.

What G_D really did was, he put light in the tunnel, but it’s just concealed… and every action that I do reveals that light. Because it is there that G_D put you… to transform the darkness into good.

The last thing that I would say to everybody is… The Messianic promise that G_D has is not just for the ones who agree with me… The proof… The All Mighty created Jews and Non-Jews. Not everybody has to be Jewish… Not everybody has to live and practice as I do.

Allow people to be the best that they can be… and work in unity. Follow G_D’s law for the Non-Jews. And Jews should follow G_D’s law as created and commanded for the Jews. Together we can make this world a better place.

Finally… If I had the podium to speak to the world… You’re only put into this world for a few moments. Instead of looking at the world for what you can get out of it; become a partner of G_D, and make miracles with him. Because every single moment in your life… there is a person… there is an opportunity to leave a footprint… to show how this world is so much better than it was three minutes ago. That’s what I think I would say.

The world obviously is going to be moving any which way it wants to, because it is not us who makes this world run. No matter how much man plans – G_D laughs… and throws in a LOT of new plans for us to work with.

So where is the world going to be in a hundred years from now? It makes no difference what I say. Because like I say, man plans – G_D laughs.

The question is… where we will man be in a hundred years from now… in the world that G_D is now laughing at.

And I think it is to recognize that in everything that goes on in this world, there is an opportunity to make this world a better place. And, that’s what I would like to see humanity become.

Instead of looking into ourselves and saying, ‘This is for me.’ Is for people to say, ‘Wow, this world is an awesome place, and I can go and play in G_D’s garden, and I can transform this world into a bigger and better place.’

How do I get the weeds out? How do I make it, that in everything that we do, is only going to be in a better way? And, if a new challenge comes about, we have been programmed by our choices to just go and say quickly, ‘Let’s make it better!’

The world is getting there. For example, two hundred years ago, if there was a hurricane somewhere… no one cared. If there was a disease somewhere… no one cared… I just hope that my country doesn’t get it.

 Today there are countries that band together, countries that will go into these places… feed people… tent people. There are people that get Aids in Africa. There are countries that give billions of dollars to fight Aids… Malaria…

…You ask me, ‘Where is this world going to be two hundred years from now…?

Before I reveal Rabbi Mentz’s answer, I must tell you a little more about myself. And in doing so, I still hold true to my stance in keeping my blog unbiased and open to no agenda or platform, other than that of unity in accepting all who choose to join us in our pledge to acceptance of each other.

This said, I’’ tell you that I am Jewish, and baptized a Mormon. A choice that has only given me the greatest peace in life and propelled my desire to better understand not only myself, but to seek a deeper understanding of my fellow-man.

Rabbi Mentz has challenged me to explore the depths of my faith, and in a very short time with him, I have found a greater understanding of where I have come from, and from my studies of other faiths, in examining my choices, and through the meetings of hundreds of unique and spectacular people, I come to the same conclusion in agreeing with Rabbi Mentz’s answer for what is to come.

…You ask me, “Where is this world going to be two hundred years from now…?” Rabbi Mentz’s self questions.

Simple he states, “We are on the right road.”

In closing, and as any loving Rabbi would do, Rabbi Mentz offers me Tefillin.

I accept.

For those of you who do not know what it represents, here is a summary:

The tefillin are to serve as a reminder of God’s intervention at the time of the Exodus from EgyptMaimonides details of the sanctity of tefillin and writes that “as long as the tefillin are on the head and on the arm of a man, he is modest and God-fearing and will not be attracted by hilarity or idle talk; he will have no evil thoughts, but will devote all his thoughts to truth and righteousness.”The Sefer ha-Chinuch (14th century) adds that the purpose of tefillin is to help subjugate a person’s worldly desires and encourage spiritual development. Joseph Caro (16th century) explains that tefillin are placed on the arm adjacent to the heart and on the head above the brain to demonstrate that these two major organs are willing to perform the service of God.

What’s inside it:

And it shall be for a sign for you upon your hand, and for a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand did the LORD bring you out of Egypt.—Exodus 13:9

And it shall be for a sign upon your hand, and as totafot between your eyes; for with a mighty hand did the LORD bring us forth out of Egypt.—Exodus 13:16

And you shall bind them as a sign upon your arm, and they shall be as totafot between your eyes.—Deuteronomy 6:8

You shall put these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall tie them for a sign upon your arm, and they shall be as totafot between your eyes. —Deuteronomy 11:18

Rabbi Mentz is a man of great faith, he has shared with me a symbolic blessing, one that is at the root of my very birth, and a prayer for my happiness and safety in life.

A blessing that is bestowed upon me, is one that is more global than we may realize. For looking into his council, there is a rabbinical prayer that a greater light is in store for all who look. A prayer for a better world, for whether Gentile or Jew, Rabbi Mentz is resolute, “Allow people to be the best that they can be…” and work in unity. Follow G_D’s law for the Non-Jews. And Jews should follow G_D’s law as created and commanded for the Jews. Together we can make this world a better place.”

Rabbi, you are right, “We are on the right road.”

Talk tomorrow my friends, and may we all journey safely.

365 Day 361 / “It Ain’t Hell’s Kitchen, It’s Opportunity”

September 6, 2012

Here I go again, walking up to people in parking lots, and in my own neighborhood none-the-less. How shameless.

And, if you had asked me at the beginning of 365 if I would wander my own area so often, I would have most likely dismissed the notion. Thinking, “I need to travel as far as I can to find a diversity of people, and to meet true strangers.”

Boy was I wrong… Not that I have leaned heavily on my own back yard, but with the pace of every day life and in running a business, there has been many a time where the only option available was to take a local walk. And how sweet it has been, for in every neighborhood outing, I have met a vast range of people, all of who have had something positive to contribute to our mission.

Today is no exception, when having only thirty minutes of free time, on an incredibly busy day; I meet Sumal as he waits in a gym parking lot near my home, killing a bit of time before picking his Uncle up.

Sumal has no reservations in speaking with us, and in his council, gives us perspectives in self-reliance and of the importance of selfless living.

“Do whatever you want to do in life…” Sumal advises, “…but don’t lie to people… we must respect other people’s feelings, and do the correct things, not the bad things. Everything comes from good things, not from bad things. We have to set our target; it’s always going to be a different feeling if you can reach your target by doing good things.”

“What is your target?” I inquire.

“My target…? I’d like to be a chef… I’ve studied five years at home (Sri Lanka), and in this country I’ve already finished my school in culinary. I finished last year… and right now I’m working in a restaurant. I know I cannot be a chef right now, I need to get more experience, it’s a hard job.”

I think of Hells Kitchen as Sumal explains what it is like working the line.

“All the bosses put a pressure on us as the pressure is put on them. Especially on weekends, we are very busy… the line.”

It is apparent that Sumal is doing the works, paying his dues and has his sights set on a personal target. And as he explains his experiences he strongly leans towards stories that prove of his decision to patience and in choosing the good.

He talks of society, “It’s different now… not like the seventies and sixties, when people helped each other. It is not like that now. Now day’s people are very selfish. They are thinking about themselves, not caring about others. If you earn some money… you keep it in your pocket. They don’t think of the poor people who have nothing to eat, and right now very few people give to the people so they can eat some food…”

However, Sumal does take into account the nature of helping people who are in need, “…there is some reason behind it too, because some people take the money, but they don’t eat. They use it for drugs or something else.

People right now… it is very hard to find out who they are, and it going to get worse,” Sumal summarizes.

We’ve heard this sentiment from hundreds of new friends over the last year. “It’s going to get worse.” But, along with it has come inspirations to do our parts in bettering our contribution to the world, as well as a vastness of thoughts, from just about every religion, race, gender and age. All telling, and hoping for, a time to come where something will change for the better. And better yet, we’ve met many who are now engaged in the trenches, doing whatever they can in their own circles of influence to plant the good seeds of which Sumal refers.

Sumal sums up a challenge with a sobering comment, “Now days a lot of people have more needs and wants, and too many put their wants before their needs.”

I push a little, “Sumal, what would you tell the people of the world to do about it?”

“Yes, it going to be worse, and everything is going to be destroyed one day… according to my religion (Sumal is Buddhist), just follow the rules and teachings of Buddha and it will be easy to survive.”

Now, as I’ve always stated, my intent is to not be writing a religious blog. While, in interviewing so many, it has been impossible to not feature the words, and beliefs, of the many.

And what is so empowering from this experience is one universal finding, at the core of so many faiths, Christian to Jew, Muslim to Sikh, Buddhist to Hindu, can be found similar guidelines that overlap in an amazing way. We really are so similar at the most basic level of what we all believe.

The rules in which Sumal speaks of:

1) To avoid the training to avoid taking the life of beings.

2) To undertake the training to avoid taking things not given.

3) To undertake the training to avoid sexual misconduct.

4) To undertake the training to refrain from false speech.

5) To undertake the training to abstain from substances which cause intoxication and heedlessness.

Five more days to go to the end of this phase of 365, and for whatever reason, this week is proving to be a week of spiritual enlightenment. I’m not looking for this stuff, or profiling for any one religious, political, environment or social platform.

Only one objective do I keep on the table; that is to do the best I can to fairly represent the people I meet, and to be a random as I can in meeting them.

Whatever the results from the last year may be, I will always be proud to say, “Thank you to all my new friends, your lessons have shaped me in how I will be addressing the rest of my life, and I hope that the same effect will take hold in your heart as well.”

“Hey Richard… Your not done yet, save the sentimentality, you still have strangers to meet.”

Your right, 365 is not over, Plus, it is only just beginning. So readers… Operation 365 is readying to commence. Stay tuned my friends.