The Answer

Daddy, we need You.

Our police departments are broken. Our law enforcement agencies are broken. Our judicial system is broken. Our prison system is broken. Our country is broken. Our people are broken…  Our capacity for empathy is broken. Our willingness to listen and understand is broken. Our humility is broken. Our pride blinds us, our fear of being wrong suffocates us, our ignorance stifles us, and our complacency is killing us. Where is our humanity? Where is our humility? Where is our love? Where is our respect for human life? Another name added to the list of people whose country has turned its back on the people who broke their backs to build it. The list is too long. There are too many hashtags.

I realized I’ve been waiting for this. Since Freddie Gray, I’ve been waiting for this. Who will be next? It was only a matter of time. I’ve been angry, sad, disgusted, outraged, and every time, after I’ve exhausted every emotion, I fall to my knees and weep. I weep for every mother who has buried a child, I weep for every child who has buried a parent, I weep for every human being – no different than I except for varying levels of melanin in their skin. A variation in melanin intended by its Creator to be a work of art. A variation that we’ve turned into a means to demonize anything that is different from ourselves, as if appreciating the beauty in someone else somehow subtracts from our own. A variation in melanin that dictates everything from access to opportunity to how we are perceived by people who do not know our character but choose to judge us in ways they wouldn’t dream of being judged. I weep for each and every one of them. Humans. People. Brothers. Sisters. Mothers. Fathers. Friends. I weep for the feeling and thoughts they must have had in their last breaths – fear mixed with peaceful acceptance of their fate. “So this is what is to become of me. I’ve watched it happen to countless others, now it is my turn.” I fall to my knees and weep. And every time I ask God, “Why?”

Why do so many people who look like me have such a hard time seeing the truth? Why aren’t more people who look like me shaking in rage? Why can’t more people who look like me accept that there can be good people wrapped up in a bad institution? Why can’t more people who look like me acknowledge that one can identify a problem without assuming that he will be blamed for it? Why don’t more people who look like me seek to understand before being understood? Why don’t more people who look like me accept that history runs deep, and if we tell the broken-hearted that for every year spent with a lover it will take 2 to heal, it is foolish to expect 300 year old wounds to be forgotten in half the time? Why can’t more people who look like me be appalled at slavery, injustice, Jim Crow and his son the Prison Industrial Complex, without thinking it means they’re taking responsibility for it? Why don’t more people choose self-reflection? Why are we so fearful of change? Why do so many leaders choose pride over principle?

And every time I ask Him Why, He reminds me that asking Why is not my place and asking Why will not solve injustice. Asking Why will not bring anyone back from the grave & asking Why will not fix a broken system that was never intended to be fixed. The answer to Why is because we live in a fallen world full of fallen people. Bernie Sanders can’t fix it. Hillary can’t fix it. Chris Christie can’t fix it. Obama couldn’t fix it. Vibes and crystals and karma can’t fix it. Our obsession with self love and slacktivism can’t fix it. Only Jesus can fix it. He is crying for His children to return to Him.

The problem is always sin. The answer is always Him.

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Valentine’s Day is Only Corny if You Are

Seven years ago, I started dating myself on Valentine’s Day…

In other words, seven years ago, I vowed to never be bitter toward love. Like so many women who were dateless every time February 14th rolled around, that day was always bittersweet. The idea of couples pouring affection on each other and people expressing love warmed my heart… And at the same time, the lack of that in my own life always left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. All over the country there would be people expressing their love toward one another, and I would be home – alone, and loveless.

So starting in 2008, I made a choice NOT to be home, alone, and loveless. I reminded myself that I have a God who loves me beyond my wildest imagination – so much so that he paints the sky for me every morning and shines the moon for me every night. He wraps me in acceptance and showers me with grace. He loves me so much He died for me… and would do it again every day if He had to… just to let me know how much He loves me.

I began taking trips every February. I would fly somewhere new and date the city for the day. I’d wander the streets and explore the museums. I’d taste the food and breathe the air. I’d embrace every drop of goodness a city had to offer. I’ve always seen cities as people – each with their own distinct personalities… Each with their own quirks and flaws, but with so many things to love. It was a joy to watch happy couples walk hand-in-hand down Michigan Avenue as I basked in the beauty of snowflakes in Chicago. I partied with Miami and danced with Vegas. I had dinner with the Dominican Republic and dessert with Houston. I soaked up the sun with Hawaii and had the time of my life with Bali. I turned something that was a ping of pain into an abundance of joy.

I CHOSE to enjoy Valentine’s Day because I didn’t like the alternative. I CHOSE to date myself because in all my years of living and dating, I’d never had a Valentine’s date. I attribute this to 3 reasons:

Number one, I’ve only been in relationships on two February 14th’s… Both times with guys who used the “Valentine’s Day is corny” excuse to avoid having to celebrate it. “Yeah, totally corny. Pshhh!” I lied. (insert side eye emoji here).

Number two, I’ve dated some real class acts who picked fights riiiiiight around February 12th so that they could get out of Valentine’s Day duties. (In case you missed it, “class act” is code for the exact opposite of that.)

Number three, and worst of all, men tend to assume that women have experienced everything there is to experience with someone else already.

So let me speak on behalf of women around the world when I say, Gentlemen, please stop assuming. Expressing that you care about someone shouldn’t change just because you think everyone else is doing it on the same day. If anything, it should be even more reason to do it! Don’t assume that she’s had 100 Valentine dates, so one more with you won’t mean much. Stop letting your assumptions that she’s been sent flowers a thousand times keep you from sending her flowers. I don’t know a single woman on the face of the Earth who wouldn’t be tickled pink to have flowers delivered to her doorstep. (Yes I said “tickled pink”. I’ve been hanging out with Grandma a lot lately.)

The point is, even if she’s had 100 roses sent to her job a thousand times, and even if she’s been taken around the world by someone who came before you, doing something nice for her will never go out of style. Make her feel loved. Make her feel appreciated. You’d be surprised at how often she’s had a man do that for her… Most likely, it hasn’t been very often. There is nothing corny about love and appreciation. It’s a beautiful thing. At the end of the day, all anyone wants is to know that someone they care about cares about them… Even on Valentine’s Day.

A Letter to a Future Queen

Mi muñequita,

You are the smell of dew on a cool spring morning, the crispness of air when the first snow falls. You are as beautiful and intricate and one-of-a-kind as every snowflake on every mountain in every winter that has ever passed. You are great-grandma’s pancakes and sprinkles on cupcakes and warm honey drizzled in Moroccan mint tea.

Your hair is like onyx, your heart is like gold. You are worth more than all the riches in all the castles in every fairytale ever told.

Your laugh is like summer, your smile is the sun. Your giggle is the puzzle piece that completed my heart. You are sweet potato pie and candied yams, grandma’s fudge and banana pudding.

You prance around like dandelions, dancing in the wind. You are every song in every dream. You are every wish upon every star. You are the sea in my toes and the sun on my face.

You are hot cocoa with marshmallows on cold winter nights. You’re fireplaces and Christmas wreaths, and gingerbread men. You are the closest thing to home I’ve ever known. You are the closest thing to God that I’ve ever seen.

Your little fingers leave me in awe. Your hands were made to create… Beautiful watercolor paintings and culinary masterpieces. They were made to strum a guitar and stroke ivory keys. They were made to comfort the sick and give to the poor. They were made with grace and compassion and care. They will write best sellers and pen chart toppers. They will make a difference in this world beyond my limited imagination.

Your ten little fingers and ten little toes will one day grow to match the hands that now hold you. Your ten little piggies will one day grow to march across stages and stand in front of boardrooms. They will travel the world and step out on faith. Your perfect giggle will one day grow to be the voice that inspires a generation. Your precious little body will one day begin to curve like the most beautiful piece of pottery – smooth and soft and perfectly crafted.

That body is yours, my love – Yours to treasure and yours to keep. It is yours to love and yours to cherish, and yours to care for. It is yours to protect.

One day you will meet a man. Promise me that you will make him win your heart, your mind, your love, before he has the privilege of embracing your body. Let his actions prove his love for your soul. Always remember that a man who loves you is a man who protects and respects you. And the greatest virtue of a man is found in his humility.

There will be those who are entranced by your beauty and lost for words by your voice. Do not give them your heart simply because they ask for it. Do not fall for flowery language and empty declarations of love, my dear. For they will see you and their hearts will skip a beat. They will say they love you. Let them show you. Please remember that not everyone who desires you truly values you. You come from a long line of strong women. Do not make yourself smaller just to appease other people. Let your light shine. Work on becoming the best woman you can be. Find a man who looks at you the way Daddy looks at me.

Someday that body may house another just like you, the same way that I have housed you. One day you will look into big curious eyes, the way I look into yours. You’ll want to protect her and hold her, comfort her and be her shield. You’ll want to keep her from all the evils of the world. You will find the best day of your life is the day she comes into it; The worst is the day you have to let her fly free.

Your heart, my love, is the most precious part of you. It will love with a love so deep and so broad, even the stars in sky won’t compete with its power. Your little heart will love with a love so big, it’s a wonder it can even fit in your chest. Your heart was made to change this world. Do not let anyone or anything convince you that you are not enough. You are more than enough.

Please don’t lose your sense of wonder my love. Remember the dreams you have as a child. They are dreams God placed in your heart for a reason. With God all things are possible. Faith and hard work are the recipe for your life. Trust Him in all that you do. He knows far more than Daddy or I ever will.

My beautiful precious girl. Flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone. You are my greatest creation, my most perfect masterpiece, the most beautiful work of art, my most treasured accomplishment, my greatest blessing. You were born in my heart long before you were born to the world.

I will love you til the end of time. And when the clock has ticked its final tock, I will search for the end of the end. I will find it and I will stretch it out one more day, just to love you more.

My darling, my heart, my girl.

I love you more than love.

Te adoro mi amor,

Mama

A Letter to a Prince

My little king,

You are the smell of cut grass right after a storm. You are sandcastles and seashells and warm sand between toes. You are mud pies and cartwheels and chocolate cake and carousels. You are as special and unique as every fingerprint on every hand on every person who’s ever lived.

Your eyes are like the planets, your laugh is like rain. You are the clearest skyline after the clouds have emptied their fill. You are the freshest air at the top of the highest mountain. You are bubbles and beetles and soft puppy fur. You are Thanksgiving and Christmas and the Fourth of July.

You are the brightest sunflower and the busiest bee. You are strong like the sea and just as mysterious. You are powerful like the wind and as brave as the sky.

Your hands were made to build and protect. To design beautiful cathedrals and braid intricate wires. There will be power in your fists, and love in your open palms. They will hold the broken, wipe tears of the sorrowful, and embrace the needy. They will create beautiful sculptures and take award-winning photos. They will pen novels and screenplays and historical speeches. Right now they were made to cling to me – to wrap ten little fingers around just one of mine.

Your toes were made for me to marvel at – perfect little cushions of squishy goodness. They will swim in the oceans and jump in the snow. They will climb on trees and pounce on leaves. One day they will travel the globe – exploring cultures and tasting cuisines and embracing differences and falling in love. They will step onto stages and climb pyramids.

Your voice is more beautiful than the greatest melody I’ve ever heard. It is the drumbeat, the bass line and the violin all in one. Right now it is the song to soothe my soul. One day it will be the sound that inspires millions.

One day you will grow into your Daddy’s shoes. You will be given the gift and responsibility to care for another. You will be looked to for advice and be looked at with reverence. Please be cautious with the power you hold. Some people will mistake it for something to fear. Do not let them put you in a box.

One day you will love a woman. You will be entrusted with her heart, and she will be entrusted with yours. Do not give yourself to every beautiful thing. For beauty is often the most dangerous bait. Make her earn your heart, your trust. And then be willing to give it openly and freely. Love her as deeply as Daddy loves me. Respect her, support her, encourage her. Listen to her and guide her. Be her best friend and her number one fan. And make sure she does the same. Or one day you will love a man. I will love you just the same.

One day you may be blessed with the privilege I have. Your heart will overflow with a love you never imagined possible. The kind of love that you read about and hear about and not even your dreams can prepare you for. One day you will have a son, and you will love him, cherish him, hold him, and protect him the way I do you. You will fear for his future and hope for his dreams. The best day of your life will be the day that you meet him, the worst will be the day you have to set him free. Teach him love and respect and patience and peace. Teach him compassion and confidence and obedience and strength. Teach him his value and valor and his virtue and vice. Teach him morality and humility and loyalty. Teach him all the things that the world will try to strip him of. Teach him all the things that we failed to teach you. Train him up as a man of God. Show him the way to his Father’s heart. Above all else, pray for him. Without ceasing, pray for him.

You were made for greatness my love. The world has not yet known someone as impactful as you. Before you were born, you were the dream in my heart and the spark in my eye. You are my greatest accomplishment, my most precious masterpiece, my biggest blessing. Do not let anyone or anything tell you that you are not enough. You are more than enough. You are flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone. You are every fiber of my being, the love of my life. You are my heart. Faith and hard work are the recipe for your life. Trust God in all that you do. He knows far more than Daddy or I ever will.

I will love you til the end of time. And when the clock has ticked its final tock, I will search for the end of the end. I will find it and I will stretch it out one more day, just to love you more.

My prince, my love, my son.

I love you more than love.

Te amo mi lindo.

Mama

Love Lessons – What Is Love?

There is a reason we all crave love. It’s what we were made to do. Think about it. Our human faults and failures taint love. Our mistakes turn our experiences with “love” into something other than what it was intended to be. We crave love so deeply, that we’re willing to throw logic and sanity and self-preservation and our well-being out the window sometimes just to have a glimpse at its glory. We often lose ourselves in a quest to fill ourselves.

made to love...
made to love…

But we were all made with a hole in our hearts – designed to be filled by God and other people. Quite literally, we need love to survive.

What is love? Our own hurts and insecurities and pains have taught some of us what we think love is. But in reality, our struggles with “love” have only proven to show us what love isn’t.

love heals...
love heals…

I don’t have all the answers. But I know Someone who does…

So far, this is what I’ve learned:

Love is intentional.

Love is more than a feeling. It’s more than butterflies and sparks and euphoria. Feelings are the beautiful introductions to love. But love takes more than feelings. The reason so few “loves” last is that we confuse love with infatuation.

Love is not attachment. It is not purely desire. It’s not lust or attraction or infatuation. Those things are all temporary.

what you seek is seeking you...
what you seek is seeking you…

Love goes beyond a feeling. It is an unconditional calling.

Love is not pain, but it will challenge you to grow.

Love is not a task, but it does take work.

Love is not dysfunction, but our love is imperfect.

Love is not one-sided. It is intentionally reciprocal. Like anything else in life, what you get out of love is a direct reflection of what you put into it.

Love is a choice.

It is choosing to see past the infatuation phase. It’s choosing to support and encourage and fight. Love is choosing to listen when we’d rather speak, give when we’d rather take, stay when we’d rather go.

Love is looking into the soul of another human being and saying, “I’m in. I see the good in you and I’m here to help make the good great.” It’s saying, “The best of you far outweighs the worst of you. I want to weather

made whole...
hearts made whole…

the worst with you so that together we can reap the benefits of the best.” Love is saying, “I refuse to quit on you… even when you quit on yourself.”

Love is understanding another’s imperfections as a reflection of our own. It is two people choosing to put each other before themselves. To love is to serve.

Love is an intentional declaration of humility.

In its purest form, love is choosing to give someone else a glimpse at the face and heart of God: “As He loves me, so shall I love you.”

Love is intentional. Love is a calling. Love is a verb. Love is a choice.

Love

Counterfeit King

The night we met. High above the hills. Head in the clouds...
The night we met. High above the hills. Head in the clouds…

He was the answer to every thought, wish, prayer and dream. Could this be real? Could I have finally found “The One”?

For him, it was love at first sight. For me, it took a little longer.

I was cautious. I was careful. I didn’t want to get hurt. I didn’t want to hurt someone else.

I was tired of being wrong. I was exhausted from pouring my heart, soul, mind, body, and financial resources into every failed relationship. I was always the giver. Rarely was I on the receiving end of any kind of substantial attention or affection or displays of love. I had decided that the next one would be the last one. I had worked on myself long enough that I was ready.

I took my time. And he swept me off my feet.

He respected my timelines. He agreed with my boundaries. He was the only man I’ve ever known who respected waiting for intimacy. He agreed. He wanted to do this “right”.

He looked at me like I had magic in my eyes.

When he spoke, his voice screamed of his heart’s overflowing love for me.

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“Take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are magic.” -Frida Kahlo

Whenever he talked about how much he loved me, he would begin to cry with overwhelming emotion. There were several times he broke down weeping, my heart running over with love for a man who had freely given me his heart.

“Every great man has a greater woman behind him,” he said one morning. “I realized I’ve been good up to this point, but not great. You are that woman for me. I need you to be great.”

I asked him one afternoon if he was ready for this. “Am I ready for this? I’ve been waiting for you my entire life,” he said. “For 31 years I’ve been praying for you. Don’t ask me if I’m ready for you when I’ve been waiting for you, praying for you, dreaming of you, wanting you. And if you ask me again, I will say the same thing.”

He was the literal fulfillment of dreams I’d had years earlier. He spoke verbatim from those dreams. “Confirmation,” he would say. “Confirmation,” every time one of these unexplainable coincidences would occur.

When we looked at one another we could read each other’s thoughts. Often he’d answer a question I was thinking and vice versa.

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Rise and shine and sweep me off my feet.

He did all the little things – beautiful gifts for me, “just because”. He picked up the camera one morning and did an impromptu photo shoot. I felt like I was in a movie. He knew how to make the most mundane things beautiful – an easy task for someone whose career was made on stage.

He looked at me like I was the center of his world. And I was.

He told me I was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. And he meant it.

He told me how lucky he felt to “get to” wake up next to me every morning for the rest of his life. And he did.

This is LOVE
LOVE in the little things…

I would make breakfast for him in bed and leave notes on the bathroom mirror. He would bring dinner home for me and write “I love you” so I’d see it in the shower door steam.

We read together, watched football together, wrote together. We discussed our goals and dreams. I felt comfortable with him. I could completely be myself. I spoke, he listened. He taught, I learned. I never felt more beautiful than I did in his arms. We felt like a family.

He was home to me.

He said this was the first time a woman had cared for him, cooked for him, listened to him, encouraged him, believed in him, loved him the way that I did. “You’re the only person in my life who loves me unconditionally,” he would tell me. “No one has ever loved me like you do.”

He told me over and over again that I was his best friend. And he was mine.

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Like-minded

He wanted a wedding in Europe, and a home in the hills. When he came home one night and said he’d bought our home, he showed me pictures of the backyard, the entryway, the kitchen – it was the kitchen I’d pictured in my dreams, the pool I always wanted. “Confirmation,” he said. “I’m building us a studio in the back so we can work on music,” he told me… He was every dream come true.

He brought me into his life, his world, his work, his family.

…I was there at his work functions with his coworkers, his management.

…I was there at his home with his family, his son.

…I was there in the studio when he cut his first record.

…I was there on the late nights when he needed someone to talk to.

…I was there on early mornings when he needed someone to hold.

His friends saw the change in him. “She’s good for you,” one friend told him one morning. “I’ve never seen him this happy in the 10 years I’ve known him,” she told me.

His friends called me powerful & beautiful. Fans called us a power couple.

“You’re stupid if you let her go,” his friends would say. “You belong together.”

He was more creative, enlightened, and happy with me than he’d been in as long as he could remember, he told me. Having me brought out his greatness, he said.

imageHe was the embodiment of every woman’s dream, every wish for a perfect relationship. He was to me what we are all looking for: The one person who looks at you like you are magic, the one person who can hold you accountable and wants you to do the same for them, that one who believes in your dreams and wants you to be an integral part of every one of theirs. He wanted me to help run his companies and bring new ideas to life. He wrote a script; I did the casting. He wanted to start a clothing line; I did the designs. He wanted to have his memoirs written; I would be the one to write them.

He said all the right words. His touch lit my skin on fire. His words lit my soul on fire. His presence lit my heart on fire.

For the first time in my life, I understood why love poems and songs and beautiful romantic scripts were written… because when you experience that kind of unconditional, nonjudgmental, beautiful kind of love, you can’t help but want to share it with the world. You hope and pray that everyone gets the chance to feel so loved at least once in a lifetime.

He told me I was everything he wanted but didn’t think existed.

I thought he was the same.

He had all the qualities I was looking for:

He was good looking and successful and passionate and determined. He had a quiet confidence, a humble swagger, and his own sense of style. He had built a beautiful life and a level of success off of hard work, blood, sweat and tears. He was admired and loved and adored by millions of people who didn’t even know him. He had bounced back from disappointment and failure time and time again. He was funny and fun and caring and kind. He was supportive and encouraging and loving and compassionate. He was artistic and emotional and brilliant. His smile could light up a room. His eyes shone with passion and love. He had a heart for people and a heart for God.

He was telling his business partner about us one day. “It won’t last,” he said. “How could he say something like that?” I thought. “He doesn’t even know me.”

And then I realized, he said that because he knew HIM.

imageHe told me I was his missing piece, his soul mate, his perfect match, the love of his life, his wife. He wrote songs for me and poems about me and made sweeping declarations of love.

He told me all the things I prayed to hear…

…but his actions started showing me something else.

I prayed for him, we prayed together… and then I realized, he wasn’t praying for me.

His word began to lose its integrity. The beautiful fairytale began to unravel. He had my heart. But his was still stuck between me and the questions he’d been left with. Half his heart was still broken by betrayal and uncertainty and pain. A bright future made him regret a dark past. I was all his. And he was only partially mine…

Then the words of my mother rang in my ear: “The enemy brings his best right before God brings His.”

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I saw the king in him. I spoke to the king in him. I loved the king in him. He called me “Queen”. We had what everyone dreams of… But it was just that – a beautiful dream. He loved that I saw him in a way he hadn’t been seen before. He wanted to be that man.

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But even when you act for a living, you can only act out a role for so long. Eventually the truth comes to light… The one before me probably heard the same words, just like the ones after me most likely will too.

A counterfeit king falls in love with love. And I fell in love with him.

Travel Lessons

I believe there are few better teachers than travel.

I’ve lived in 12 cities in 6 states, in 3 countries. I’ve traveled to 27 states in the US, including the northernmost state and the southernmost state. I’ve been to 15 countries on 4 continents…. And I’ve barely touched a fraction of all this world has to offer.

So while I still have miles to go before I sleep, I’ve compiled a list of the top 12 things I’ve learned in all my travels:

1. I have so much to be thankful for.

   I’m not talking about material things. I’m talking basic standards of living that I take for granted – access to clean drinking water, running water, warm water; access to great public education, roadways and plumbing and a roof over my head. I’ve never had to go to bed hungry. I have a loving family, my relative health, all of my senses, all of my limbs, sound mental health, and my gifts. I’ve been blessed with countless opportunities to hone my skills, develop my talents, and carve a path toward success. My basic “rights” are not rights at all, but rather privileges I’ve been afforded, most of which I do not deserve, and most of the time I take for granted.

2. Our education system leaves much to be desired.

    To truly learn about the world, taking what’s spoon fed from elementary education isn’t enough. Why do we learn about the Holocaust but not the Khmer Rouge? Why do we romanticize Thomas Jefferson but villianize Malcolm X? Where is the rich history of South and Central America in our text books? Why can’t this generation spell properly? Why can no one count change any longer? We have a serious problem in this country that we seem to be totally ok with ignoring. When it comes to math, reading, and science, our teens rank 36th in the world. Thirty-sixth.

   It wasn’t until I got to college and sought out education on Asian history and African art and Spanish literature and African-American studies that I learned about so much of the legacy we don’t learn in lower education. Had I not had a desire to learn, however, I’m afraid I still would not understand white privilege or The New Jim Crow or Asian codes of honor or the offensiveness of the term “Orient”.

    Our children dislike school. They fight to go. Parents argue with teachers. Meanwhile, ask millions of people in the Congo or Nigeria or Ethiopia or Korea or Japan what their number one priority is, what their hope for a future is, and the majority of the time, you will find young people replying, “education”.

3. Money does not make one rich.

    Some of the most joyful people I’ve seen are people in “third world” countries. Some of the most broken and miserable people I’ve known are people on your favorite TV shows. I’ve seen the biggest smiles on the faces of people with little material wealth, and the biggest bouts of depression tormenting the minds of people who live in million dollar homes.

4. There is a Columbus Street in every city in America. (This may or may not be a slight exaggeration).

    You may not be paying attention, but I notice it every-freakin-where I go. 😒

5. There is so much beauty to be found in differences.

    One of the biggest fears is the fear of the unknown. We fear that which is different from us. Our fears lead to misunderstanding, lack of empathy, stagnation, and violence. There is so much to learn in examining our differences. They are what make us beautiful. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to function as a society Imagine if we were all good at the same things, or worse yet, imagine if we were all bad at the same things. The world wouldn’t just be boring. It would be downright dysfunctional. There is so much beauty in the fashion, traditions, music, art, architecture, and history of other cultures.

6. Music is the universal language.

   It doesn’t matter whether you know the actual language or not. In fact, much music is strictly instrumental. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what you know, the right song can often speak to your soul in a way nothing else can. Music moves us. It is the oldest form of praise known to humankind.

   Throw on some Celia Cruz or Ibrahim Ferrer or Los Ilegales and see if they don’t make you want to move your feet. Listen to some fado and tell me you’re not moved to tears. Throw on some Mozart or Wagner or Chopin or Yo-Yo Ma and tell me you’re not in awe of greatness. Listen to Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Etta James, Billie Holiday, and try not to feel something. Listen to Jimi Hendrix or the Beatles or Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan or Bob Marley or MJ, Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder or Fela Kuti and tell me you can’t hear the message. Listen to a Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” or Handel’s “Messiah” and tell me you don’t get chills. And if none of those names evoked any kind of emotion in you, I’m not sure you have a soul. Music is powerful.

7. We don’t seem to be learning all of history’s lessons.

    Why 70+ years after the Holocaust are we still seeing news stories of mass genocides? Why 300+ years post slavery and 50+ years post Jim Crow do we still have a penal system that systematically creates a second class of black and brown citizens? Why 20 years after Rodney King, do we still see video after video of police brutality? Why 1000+ years after the collapse of Rome do we not see the impact of governmental regulation on society’s chances for success?

   I took a trip to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello recently. It was beautiful. It was ornate. It was a feat of genius engineering. And it was home to our country’s most shameful atrocity. A tour guide told the story of one of Jefferson’s most skilled and accomplished slaves who, despite his great accomplishments at Monticello **insert sarcasm here** he tried to escape to freedom on more than one occasion. His work at Monticello garnered him some wages – so much so that when he first ran away and ended up in Ohio, he had the means to buy some nice clothing and fake papers so that he could pass as a free black.

   However, the story goes as such: A police officer in Ohio was suspicious of a well-dressed black man in his town, so he stopped the man and asked to see his papers… He stopped him, simply because he was suspicious of a well-dressed black man.

I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Not much has changed…”

8. Our preconceived notions are often blindingly incorrect.

    Take for example, the French. I love Paris. To date, it is my favorite city in the world. I love the art and the architecture, the history and the rail system. I love the beautiful buildings and the awesome cathedrals and the breathtaking sky. I love the shopping and the eating and the language… and the people. Contrary to popular American folklore, the French were some of the kindest people I met in all of Europe. Proud, yes. Confident, yes. Blatantly rude for no reason, no. They sing good morning to you, for goodness sake. “Bon jour!”

9. Love is the most powerful force in the world.

    From Mother Theresa to Gandhi to MLK to Pope John Paul II to the headmasters in Ethiopia that run schools for orphans and the mothers in America working 3 jobs to send their kids to school – there are few forces in the world more powerful than love. And you don’t have to go far to see it.

   I remember talking to the janitor in my office building one night. I was working late. We were the last two there. I asked her about her day and her family. She was an immigrant with no formal education. She worked two to three jobs at a time… and she didn’t complain. She was happy. She was proud. Her daughter had just started college. She was making a way that she never had. She did what she did out of love.

10. Children can teach us some of our greatest lessons.

     In the Matthew 18, Jesus encouraged us to have untainted, pure, unbiased, childlike faith. It’s amazing what we can learn when we see things through the eyes of a child. Teaching Sunday school, I was amazed at how quickly they learn, how much they pick up, how open their ears and eyes are, and how much they just want to be validated and loved.

     Anybody who’s spent any amount of time with young kids has probably learned patience, understanding, forgiveness, and love. Any parent will tell you their children taught them about the immeasurable capacity of their own heart… and taught them to be more patient than they ever thought possible. Children become what they’re told. They become what they’re taught. It is our responsibility to teach them well.

11. People who have less appreciate more. People who have more expect more.

   I sold books door-to-door in college. I met thousands of families of all different backgrounds and socio-economic statuses, in all different types of neighborhoods and communities. What I found to be true, time and time again, was that the people who had the least in terms of material possessions appreciated what they had. They were more joyful about life. They were more thankful for their blessings. They were more hopeful for their children’s futures.

   To be fair, I found the wealthiest people were often just as kind. They made it; they didn’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone. But it was the group in the middle – the “upper-middle class” who appreciated the least, expected the most, and were constantly competing to keep up with the material possessions of the people around them. They were, in essence, the most miserable.

    In my travels around the world, I also found it to be true that the people with the least in terms of material possessions are often the most joyful, the most appreciative, and the most thankful. From our driver in Bali, to the mothers selling sugar cane on the side of the road in the Dominican Republic, to the guide leading us through the rainforest of Belize, they were grateful and happy and joyful and kind.

11. Two words: Spanish tortilla.

     I studied in Spain for a semester. I survived off of café con leche, Mediterranean olives, puré, churros con chocolate, and Spanish tortillas. Go to Spain. Eat one. You can thank me later.

12. I still have a lot to learn.

     That’s the funny thing about wanderlusts and sapiosexuals – the more we learn, the more we realize we have so much more to learn. There are still so many places to go, people to meet, places to see, experiences to be had. From the beaches of Rio to the falls at Iguazu, the bazaars of Marrakech and the Australian Outback; From Goree Island to the Taj Mahal, Cape Horn and the Berlin Wall; From the skyscrapers of Tokyo to the pyramids at Giza to the whitewashed walls of Santorini and the waters of the Dead Sea… There is so much more of this world I cannot wait to see.

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A collection of life's not-so-little experiences…