THE BIRTH OF AN IDEA
In late 2009, while doing a book-release tour for Infinite Possibilities, I was briefly in Portland with some time off, so I went for a walk downtown. It was dusk and as I approached a corner cafe, I walked by a homeless woman who was sitting on the sidewalk, head down, reading a book, with her faithful dog lying beside her. From my limited vantage, she appeared to be in her 60's, with greasy, matted hair. A sad sight. Almost a block away, not having broken my stride, I felt compelled to go back and offer her a 20 dollar bill. She hadn't asked, and if she had, I probably would have declined. But the old line in my head from Gibran's The Prophet, about it being better to give unasked, was haunting me. After a "Hey... hi," to get her to look up, as I held out the money a shock went through me upon realizing that, at most, she was 20 years old. Inwardly, silently, horrified, I thought, "You don't have to live like this... you have choices... there are options... you are infinitely bigger than these circumstances," while simultaneously realizing she knew none of this.
She said thanks, and I continued silently walking. Thinking to myself, as if stuck on a loop, "If she only knew... If she only knew...."
"A FISH" OR "FISHING LESSONS"?
But what could I do? Sit with her? Coach her? Teach her all I knew in 15 minutes? I've never been drawn to helping one person at a time. Too intimate, too scary, just not my style, especially when doing so would take away from my reaching far greater audiences as I do with my website, emailings, books, and world tours. Besides, I would be in Seattle in 15 hours, and 24 hours after that, another city, as I continued my tour for a book ironically about the art of living your dreams. And then it hit me: Infinite Possibilities was my first major nonfiction release, an A-Z book on the nature of reality, life's beauty, our power, and the divine heritage we're all born of... maybe if I gave it to her....
An hour later my publisher arrived at my hotel to take me to the evening's lecture and book signing, and I asked if we could first drive by the cafe. Sure enough the young lady was still there, so I hopped out of the car and approached. "Hi! I was here earlier. I can't help but think that if you only knew your options, you'd be able to make some decisions that could help change your life. I've recently written a book about life and how powerful we are. If I give you a copy, would you have a look at it . . . ?" Instead of the rebuke I half expected to hear, her smile and response were immediate, "Sure! I love to read! Thank you!" And that was the last I saw of her.
KNOCKING ON DOORS
By the time I returned to Orlando I had a plan. Now that I had a "real" book, I could follow the same model I had stumbled upon in Portland for reaching out to those who want to learn. I'd begin in my own hometown reaching out to small groups, giving a series of short talks, leaving behind a copy of Infinite Possibilities for anyone wanting it. I asked my team to find any organization in central Florida who:
- Were open to learning of a "new" spiritual, not religious, perspective on the truths of life.
- Had attendees who could, fairly quickly, begin applying such information immediately to their lives.
The logical choices were to begin with teenagers or young adults new to (or who were about to enter) the "working" world, prisoners who'd be released in the immediate future, and shelters for battered women. Of course, there's no segment of the population, including school children, senior citizens, and death row inmates, that wouldn't benefit from such a program and that we wouldn't like to eventually reach, but for starters, I wanted to begin with groups who could apply this information fast to make lasting changes in their lives.
A DREAM COME TRUE
We got our big break at the Orange County Jail. Starting in 2010, for over 1 year, I began speaking weekly to inmates who volunteered to be part of a daily program that offered a variety of instructional tools, workshops, and learning material to help them deal more effectively with life and make better choices upon their release.
My talk was simply one of many talks they received each week, from many different people of different backgrounds. To organize my content for these talks, I made a simple, interactive workbook to further simplify Infinite Possibilities.
Some Tuesdays, depending on the turnover and the openness of the crowd, my teachings were challenged, but every Tuesday there's been near unanimous deep appreciation, echoed in comments like, "I loved hearing what you said today...," "Thanks for visiting us...," "I've never heard anything like what you spoke about...," "It's true, my thoughts always have become things, I just need to work on my focus!"
Since those first talks I’ve also spoken to half-way house inmates, addicts, and the homeless, but now the shift is on to train trainers, so that ever increasing segments of the population, who have never heard "this stuff before," can get on board!