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An unexpected lesson

I left for a bachelor party in New Orleans and came back with a life lesson I will never forget.

I am writing on a flight back from New Orleans to Los Angeles. I was in New Orleans for a bachelor party. When I am on vacation like that, I feel uncomfortable in society. I am spending a tremendous amount of time, money and energy being a consumer. Worse, I am doing this with a group where we could combine use of those times to make a real impact on life. I am not viewing this as a net negative at all, this was a highlight of my life getting to celebrate my best friend, but it does give me a deep feeling of guilt. Especially because I don’t feel I particularly like those activities. I am doing it because I like the people who are there and want to spend time with them. I also believ ein showing up for people for big moments in their lives, showing up matters. So we spent 4 days partying in New Orleans. After 3 days, the homeless begging for money gets old to some people. And I get it. Especially in New Orleans, lots of hustlers who aren’t really broke taking advantages of travelers. As we came to the end of bourbon street, I saw a family of four, a mom with three kids. They were all shoeless and had some gnarly looking feet. The kids were playing drums together. Looking for money. At that age, you are playing drums on the street at 1 a.m.  because you need that money. This is not money to save, this is money to eat. It is a last resort.  Seeing the kids there and the cross generational element of this particular family got to me. The mom has no man around visibly. Likely, she was raised in a similar situation (even though I am speculating here) and just doing for her kids what she knows. She is just trying to survive. But those kids man, those kids… they have a tough hole to climb out of. They can do it, but the cards are stacked against them. I like to think I would be that amazing story of rags to riches in that scenario but who knows. Chances are that would not happen. Just then, a deaf person tapped my friend on the shoulder. It was startling. Most people begging wouldnt touch you but that was his form of communications. He was deaf since birth I found out later so he couldn’t talk in a way you would understand. We were fucked up and also getting heckled all weekend so I understood my friends response. It was an innate reaction to say no. The deaf homeless man continued to beg and my buddy was almost forced to get aggressive. He strongly told him to get away and accused him of not being deaf. This made the deaf man very upset and he closely followed us. He was not getting physical, but he was very close and stalking us. He basically was following him down the street trying to yell in his ear, but the man could only make a moaning sound we couldn’t understand. I caught a corner of the deaf man's eye. It was getting glossy. He show tremendous ability to hold back his rage. I saw he wanted to knock my friend's teeth out but knew that would not help himself. But I saw something else in his eyes… he was just plain sick of being not trusted. He was sick of being treated like an animal or worse… simply ignored. Quickly, he controlled his anger and it was simply had a sad expression. As we crossed the street my friends, a group of 15, were walking into a restaurant. I grabbed some cash from my brother and peeled off. I ran the guy down and asked to read his sign. (He has a sign to tell his story since he couldn't talk.) He was trying to raise $50 to let his little boy play in a basketball league. The second I read it, I broke down. I played my whole life and never realized the privilege it was. We take it for granted, both as a player, and as the parent who has the chance to offer that to your kids. We should celebrate that, like this man would if he can raise the money. As I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for my life, and appreciation for this man’s hustle, I saw the photo for a second. Quickly, I grabbed the dirty photo and stared into it. His son has a South Carolina Gamecocks shirt on and his son was #2. That was their team name. That was my alma mater. I communicated this to the guy. That I was a ball player, #2 and a Gamecock. I handed him some cash and immediately we both broke down. We both just started crying and held each other in our arms for several minutes. He then gestures thank you to me, as I did to him. We parted ways. That hug was the most human moment I have ever experienced. It was a highlight of my life to date. That moment is seared into my soul forever. I will forever be grateful to that man for teaching me a lesson. I hope he remembers me and is rejuvenated to live a little brighter. I hope he has a lifted spirit and passes it on. The potential ripple effect of that moment for myself and him could change the world. And I intend to use it that way. I started walking back and after about 10 steps I just hit the ground. Yea, the nasty streets of New Orleans (and I I kind of grossed out in cities in general). I needed to completely release all my energy with a cathartic cry. It took over me. I couldn’t stop. I felt such a deep sadness for those who have had a tough time, an uphill battle, and aren;’t even treated as human. We become really good “identifiers” as we age and it is our worst quality. As a baby, if we touch a carpet, it touches us back. We feel the sensations and see the colors as a beautiful piece of art. As we age, we are proud to “have touched a carpet before” and we just label it and move on. Or how about a tree. If you are touching trees and staring into their endless beauty you are missing out. That is how we treat each other on this planet. As a pre-labeled thing we already know how we want to interaction to go. Look people in the eye. Hold space for their emotions and their stillness. Just be with people. Make everyone feel seens and heard. My brother noticed I was gone for a bit and came to console me. After talking through it a bit, I realized it hit me hard because I have some guilt around my life. “Why am I so deserving? What did I do to earn this? Why didn’t I recognize this obvious truth earlier and dedicate my life to living for others to help them get what I feel I have? Whether that's financially, emotionally, intellectually, or anything!” Now, you know a bit about me by now, I don’t believe anything can be “wrong”, or “bad” so these were more questions I could use as a tool to reflect, than beliefs. Everything happens for a reason. Maybe I have been living my whole life to accumulate experiences and resources to make a bigger impact. Also, I know I can always course correct anything in my life but man, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I want to share a point of view I learned from that. We have been talking about “working through” limiting beliefs. And I still believe that. Identify them, think through them, feel through them, write through rhythm, and talk through them. But sometimes man, just fucking own them. USE THEM. I felt guilty for a reason. I could have been doing more, a lot more. It is not a bad feeling, it is pure energy. Nothing is good or bad, just energy. I need to own the guilt. And if I don’t want to feel it again, change. Take some damn action. And I plan to. I am going to dedicate Full Circle (my events company) to this cause. I do not want to feel that way ever again, so I am going to do something about it.

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