Davey’s Redemption

Davey was frightened. He had made all sorts of mistakes in life, and now it had come to this, he thought to himself as he gazed fixedly into the putrid black water.

IMGA0060Thinking all the usual thoughts  that people think in Davey’s position – he was practiced at them by now – he contemplated the ordinary bleakness of the future and what he might do next. After all the comings and goings of the last few months, he was low. Very low.

One thing was for sure, he had no more ideas.  His energies for life were all used up on the efforts he had made throughout his life’s journey and, here, in this decade of his life, he had finally come to a standstill. He had run out. In more ways than one. 

The black water looked menacing and cold. It flowed slowly and silently round and round, yet if he stopped to listen he could hear it’s siren song calling him towards its clammy waters. It was all he could do to resist the water’s damning message.

Yet the stranger had definitely said that it was possible for good things to come out of bad, or even to actively turn bad things into good. “There is always a way” he had said, if you are patient and reach for it.

In despair and the deepest disappoint in himself he had ever known, Davey had finally given up the fight, declaring himself hopeless and the stranger’s words deceptive rubbish. The guy clearly had no idea of how bad bad can be. Bad things into good things? That could only be a platitude. There was no way forward from here. Yet the stranger had said that one day he would find out for himself.

Davey reviewed his life for a few moments.  Had he not become a respected scientist? Was he not indeed a competent entrepreneur? So how had it come to this? He had the finest of university educations and been taught by world class professors. He had a caring family, who even now we’re grieving for him in his sadness.

He felt overwhelmed by self pity. As he stared into the black sludgy polluted water he felt hopeless seep through his clothes and into his heart. Good out of bad?  This bad?  It was all a meaningless cruel joke, and now he would indeed take the next step that would… that would … that … would…

He stopped. A flash of moonlight on something in the water caught his attention. Swirling innocently in the incessant gurgling flow was a little glass bottle complete with its stopper.

In some strange way, it floated clean and sparkling on the surface of the blackness.  He felt it was waiting for him, a last chance perhaps, and he knew without doubt he must have it.

It was a long way down to the waters edge, but something in Davey’s heart came alive sufficiently to prompt him to action.  Stepping back for a moment from his precarious position (and his self pity) he climbed down to the bank of the putrid pool and reached out. He would need to reach out much further than what was safe for him to rescue the bottle (and maybe himself) from the fate that called them both, but driven by his sudden inexplicable change of mood, he was determined. That little fragile bottle might change his life he thought irrationally. Perhaps it already had. He must have it at all costs.

He reached out, accepting the risks of his new passion, no longer afraid, no longer obsessing about his failings and fortunes, risking being carried away, or sucked into the sludge.

No, it was beyond him. It was out of reach, but for the first time in his life he threw aside his inhibitions and looked around for help.

That was when he saw the stranger just a few yards away who had been quietly watching his efforts all the while, and seemed to read his mind. Unselfconsciously he asked, “Can you help me please? I need that bottle.” The stranger stepped forward and anchoring himself into the bank, grasped Davey’s outstretched hand. 

Trusting his weight to this Kind Stranger made the difference.  Davey felt the bottle at his finger tips, and with one last stretch, grasped it firmly in his hand. It was his. Looking up he saw, in the moonlight, a glimpse of a smile on the stranger’s shadowed face.

Davey sat for several minutes, still and quiet at the water’s edge, reliving the last few minutes of what had seemed an impossibly challenging day (and the last few years of what felt like an impossibly challenging life.)  He took a deep breath, and as he exhaled said to himself, “This moment is a turning point for me.  I know it. Life will never be the same again.”

For the first time, in a single moment he had reached out for help, and it was as if all the struggles to achieve, all his efforts to be accepted and loved, all the disappointment and inadequacy no longer mattered.

The magic words had been “help me” and he knew it. He had never asked so blatantly for help before. He had always tried to make it on his own, brought up with the expectation that he should be independent, self sufficient, stand on his own two feet and manage his own affairs.

The very walls he had built to keep himself safe had imprisoned him.  He felt a deep sense of love filtering its way into the rocky caverns of his heart; a strange lightness beaming it’s mellow rays into its grey shadows.

And the little glass bottle was here in his hand, rescued from the very waters that he, just a few minutes before … He preferred not to think about that.

It was many years later he told me this story. He was now a wealthy man, with a loving family around him. Things had turned out well.  Reaching into his coat, he drew out the little glass bottle, complete with its stopper…

…and a crumpled, stained, scrap of paper.

“This is what was in the bottle” he said, passing it to me. “I just accepted what it says, and that has made all the difference”.

I smoothed out the paper and felt my own heart leap. There on the paper were the very words I had so longed to hear as a child – and actually through all these demanding and challenging years of life.  As I read them over and over, I could feel them washing me too, cleansing and healing me to the very core.

And I accepted them.

And that has made all the difference.

“I AM HERE” What on earth …

The latest Sercombe motorbike adventure was to the Outer Hebrides.  Just me, my big BMW R1200GS and my red tent.  In case you’ve never been there – and few people round West Sussex have as it’s 730 miles away –  this string of islands is off the northwest coast of Scotland, windy, rainy and cold.

And in the middle of a mile-long deserted pristine beach I saw this:

Version 2

No footprints anywhere near, except mine, and by the time I left my idyllic wild campsite overlooking the sea, the engraving was no more – washed away by the waves.

Of course it was me. In a moment of spontaneous inspiration I carved “I AM HERE” with my foot in the sand – and the thought dominated my week, as I contemplated my life, my business, God, the universe, and my future. Today I’ve been thinking about it again as I camped out last night in the wilds of the South Downs catching up with some reading.  A bit existentialist I know, but the truth is, I am here, and I will be ‘here’ for a while yet.  Wherever I am, I AM.  It’s the inescapable truth, and on the basis that the truth frees us, I’m enjoying the freedom.

Yep, I’m here, and it is up to me to make of it what I will.

I’m not on that beach any more. I am here instead, writing this blog.  I moved on, came back to Sussex, and I’m two weeks older, and although I have a camera full of Hebridean photos – Butt of Lewis lighthouse, the rocky hillsides of Harris, Benbecula, Eriskay, and a welcoming pink roofed cafe in Lochmaddy – I can never, ever, recapture that moment on the beach.

In times of quiet solitude I become particularly aware of the presence of God ‘here’, where I am, with me.  It is as if He has said, not written in sand but whispered as a permanent statement deep within, “Andrew, I am here” – wherever I am, always. Regardless of the ups and downs of my life, I’m never actually alone. The Divine Presence, the Creator, present in the world He created.  With me. Here. Now. For ever.

And today that is sufficient for me.  In fact overwhelmingly more so.  Far more important than success, or money. God is here.

And He is where you are too – such is the omnipresent nature of the Holy Spirit.  Unhampered by the limitations of time and space, God is with you as you read this on your screen – closer, actually.

3000 years ago a gifted young shepherd on the run from his tormentors wrote about it. Stunningly poetic, he wrapped it up in a way I’ll never be able to.  I’ve put a few key bits of his poem for you to read quietly before you move on into the rest of your week. Take a few moments – ten minutes? – to stop and reconnect. And whilst you’ll already know that I am here for you today (yes, me, Andrew. Just a phone or Skype call or email away), far more importantly, He is too.

Enjoy.

E:  andrew@powerchange.com   M: 07771631945  Skype: andrewsercombe  Website: www.powerchange.com

The Storm

When was your last storm?

The morning after a violent Atlantic storm breaks on the West Coast of Ireland. I was in a tent for the night.

Not the kind that you buy your weatherproof Goretex jacket for, or watch through the lounge window. Not a physical storm like a typhoon or hurricane in the natural world, but a more personal storm that bubbles up from nowhere, comes at you unyielding and unrelenting from ‘across the sea’, or surprises you when you are vulnerable up on the mountain.  Not merely a rainy day, but a fierce seasonal storm.  Every year or so…  Loss. Bereavement. Fear. Failure. Disappointment. Catastrophe. Serious illness.

And how do you weather that storm? It’s an interesting question isn’t it. How did you weather your last one? (Please tell me briefly in the comment box below.)

I’ve experienced a good few storms in my time. In the last few months I’ve been through another inner storm. Today, as I sit in a bar on the South Bank of the Thames in London between seeing clients, it has thankfully blown itself out. The weather front has passed. Calm has returned. The sun is shining again. There is a little damage, sure, but not too much. I may need to do some repair work here and there, but it is manageable, and I’m now in a different place, for a storm can be the catalyst to a profound reorientation of life. In a good way. A veritable Powerchange!  Or not.

Here are six ways that people react to storms:

  1. Stand in a sheltered place and watch.
  2. Hide until someone tells you it’s over.
  3. Experience it ‘full on’, feeling its every bluster.
  4. Pretend it isn’t happening.
  5. Be afraid and/or try to escape.
  6. Resist until your strength is gone.

My methods seem to oscillate between 6 and 3. I hang on for as long as possible, determined to weather it or even overcome it(!) but such is the strength of the storms that seem to come my way (or maybe I’m not as strong as I expected) I finally lose my grip and am blown away by it, away from the familiar territory I’ve become accustomed to, out of my depth, tossed like an autumn leaf by the wind of this disturbing adversity. Sucked up into the air. And when the wind dies down and its power spent I discover that I’m some distance from where I was before the storm took hold of me. In a new place, a good place, with the storm having blown itself out, and the sun warming my tired storm-tossed body. With new, refreshed territory to survey that wasn’t ‘there’ before. Better?  Wiser?  Stronger.

And when I’ve rested awhile and my strength has returned, I discover that the storm has blown me in the direction I actually wanted to go. And I notice the footprints of the Kind Stranger. And I’m sort of …

Grateful.

PS. I’m running a personal development course called SEVEN in London over the winter – First Saturday of the month in Hammersmith>  Here’s the link for more info: SEVEN.   I’d love you to come, perhaps with a friend.  Call me: 07771631945.

The Kind Stranger: On the Beach

I was sitting alone on holiday in the sun when the Kind Stranger came to me next. I’d been weary and tired – they’re different, aren’t they – and needed to hear a reassuring voice.

The beach at Speightstown, Barbados.

But it was his shadow I noticed first. It cast itself across the table I was sitting at and I knew straight away it was him. Typically he was not visibly filling the vacant chair at my side, but we both knew he was there. If he had been visible to the naked eye as well as the naked spirit, he would have been leaning back, smiling, relaxed, maybe with his legs crossed, drinking a smoothie.

“Hi Andrew.” It’s great he knows my name as well as yours. “Thinking again I see.”

“Yes, I do a lot of that.”

He didn’t reply. It amuses me how he is perfectly happy to leave my comments and expressed thoughts untouched. He has no compulsion to express his own (priceless) opinions, or pronounce subtle judgements in the way we humans are so clever at doing. So I asked him a question.

“Do you think a lot?”

He chuckled, as if the question itself was a little absurd.

“I used to,” he said. “However, now I tend to live more in the moment, being less concerned about having a thought-out answer for life’s pressing questions. Sometimes they’re better left alone with their mystery intact. I tend to consider whether or not the question has a satisfying answer – whether it needs to be asked at all. Often people ask questions to provide them with greater security or greater power. I’m not short of either of those!”

He paused, then continued, “And sometimes people think thinking is a safer alternative to acting, living out their lives.”

“Thinking to avoid the risk of failing, maybe?” I ventured.

He smiled again. “Could be.”

We’re never rushed when we’re together, the Kind Stranger and me. I don’t think he does ‘rushed’. We just sat for a few minutes, and then …

“I think to puzzle things out,” I said, “to somehow grasp the complexities of life and understand them, to simplify them, to increase my knowledge. In Powerchange we say that people are hunting for MCC, meaning, clarity, and closure.”

“And does it work?” he asked.

“I think so – it helps people make sense of a jumbled world.”

“That sounds to me like a quest for peace of mind!” he laughed.

“Absolutely!” I returned. We both laughed and the conversation went quiet for a few more minutes. We just sat.

“Andrew, I love you, you know.”

“Yes, I do know. I feel very very safe with THAT knowledge. It definitely brings MCC for me.”

“I love you when you’re thinking and when you’re not. I love you when you have answers and when you don’t. I love you when you feel safe and when you feel scared, and as I’ve said before, you’ll never be outside that love.”

I cannot describe how good it felt to hear him say that – though I’d known it to be true for many years. Friendship this deep, this real, this accepting, cannot be confined to the meagre expressions of the English language. It is drawn in through every sense we have – and more.

As I sat looking out from my shady table over the turquoise sea, listening to the breaking waves lap the shore, in my mind I saw the Kind Stranger get up from the table.

“Come on!” he invited. “Enough thinking!”

“Where are we going?” I asked, then watched in horror as he walked out on the surface of the water.

Another question, eh!” He teased. “You’ll never know if you stay where you are now. Come on, follow me.”

I rose from the table, left some change for the bill, and took a deep breath. Some things you just have to do, so I stepped onto the water too. It took a few steps of practice faith – about twenty or so – and I sank several times, but I soon got the knack.

You do, don’t you?

Speaking to Strangers

Yesterday I was one of the mentors and judges at an Enterprise Day for young people held at Butlins in Bognor Regis. There were 150 youngsters, all from Year 10, from perhaps eight schools learning about business. Brilliant. They listened, worked and learned, and so did I.

One of the organisers pointed out to me that a whole generation of children have been brought up being told not to speak to strangers, As I looked around, it seemed that she was right and they had learnt the lesson well. Here were a cross-section of teenagers who struggled to communicate confidently. With people they knew, their peers and teachers, they were fine –  more or less.  With others around them it was a different story. None of them crossed the bridge, or the room, to say ‘hello’ to each other. ‘Don’t talk to strangers’ was the unwritten rule.

Today, when interpersonal communication has never been so important, when networking is crucial to the survival and growth of business, when family relationships crumble for want of communication skills, society continues to create fear of strangers from the earliest formative years, and wonders how we can get that same generation into work.

I love it when it snows here in the UK for this one reason: people moved beyond that highly irrational fear of one another, and take a step towards community once more. Our need for each other overcomes the negative beliefs we have about one another. People are generally good, are generally trustworthy, and have no desire to damage each other. It’s true that a tiny percentage are not, but I’m not going to let their bad behaviour stifle my good behaviour. That makes me their prisoner, and evil triumphs over good.

Here’s how you can do it:

Build a reputation for being a ‘Kind Stranger’ yourself, wherever you are. Be encouraging, inspiring, caring – and be available. Live beyond the fear of being thought of as slightly strange. (At one time it was ‘strange’ NOT to wish those around you a good day.)  I speak to everyone – little children in the shop, teenagers in the car park, an older man on the train, a younger woman walking along the street – and it is very rare that I’m ignored or rebuked. Almost without exception, the invitation to connect is accepted for a few moments and I can brighten that person’s day with an honest, respectful smile and a brief, appropriate conversation or a sentence or two of approval or encouragement. It takes 15 seconds, that’s all – and the readiness to INITIATE the conversation. People soon realise you’re OK.

Please, speak to strangers. In the queue at the checkout, filling the car up with fuel, eating out, walking along the street, on public transport, take a moment to invade the negativity we have about one another, especially young people, and initiate a brief conversation. Yesterday as soon as the youngsters came into the room I excused myself from our little peer group of adult business people and went over and introduced myself to them. Soon we were chatting away, and they personally invited me to join them on their table. How rewarding is that!

In our reasonably large local village I’ve deliberately chosen to speak to young people. I remember feeling nervous about speaking to children, even though I was Chairman of Governors in their school!  How silly.  How I had been intimidated!  I’m not any more. I want them to know that people do not need to be feared. I talk to little children, with mum or dad nearby. It’s so rewarding – and has an added benefit of them learning by my example that fear of strangers is unnecessary and unwelcome. I want children to be free to walk to school on their own without the nagging anxiety of being abducted. I want them happy to grow up initiating their own conversations.

I want the tribal, gang, and class suspicions that afflict us to go. Forever. By reconnecting with one another wherever we can, across every rift and gully of age, gender, class or culture, we’ll become part of the answer in our exploding world instead of part of the problem. And it will get our country back on its feet again.  Isolation and suspicion beget the death and devastation of war. Connect with others around you and you’ll foster trade, prosperity and freedom. It can be a bit messy occasionally, but much less messy than the war alternative.

So do it. Be a Kind Stranger today.

GOD: Part 1. The Pretend Experiment

Whether you believe in ‘God’ or not, spending time thinking about him (I’m using the masculine because it works for me, not because I believe ‘God’ to be necessarily male) is good for you.  Official.   Funny that.

According to the latest academic studies of literally hundreds of neuroscientists worldwide and summarised in Dr Andrew Newberg’s latest book “How God Changes your Brain” you don’t need to believe in a Supreme Being, God, Jehovah, Allah, or some other divinity, for thinking about him to be beneficial.

Dr Newberg from the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues make a very strong case. Enjoy the read!  The truth seems to be that, neurologically, ‘God’ may be one of the most powerful words a person ever encounters, and that once the concept is in your head it won’t go away.

Personally, I’m delighted to be a ‘believer’. It works for me. I don’t put that into the same category as believing in Father Christmas – though in our house believing in FC is definitely beneficial on Christmas morning – or believing in Mother Nature, whoever she might be. It’s just that if I dig deep into my mind, heart, thinking, and soul, I can’t hand-on-heart, bring myself to say with any conviction that a single Supreme Being doesn’t exist. Reason? I think he does, and if he does, I want to be on his side and have him on mine. I hope you follow the logic.  However there are one or two conditions attached for such contemplations to be beneficial and not damaging.

The aforesaid God needs to be perceived as benevolent. No problem there, mine is.  Stick your head in Dr Newberg’s fMRI scanner and you’ll notice that contemplation of a God who is authoritarian, dictatorial, malevolent, vindictive, violent, critical, fearful, distant, angry or focuses on our wrongdoing (sin?) – any seriously negative thoughts in fact – will start to physically damage your actual brain within 20 seconds or so. I think the God I believe in would be very sad for me to do that to myself, wouldn’t he? So I like to avoid doing it; 19 seconds and no more. Only a benevolent God is good for you, not a fearsome one. That makes sense to me.

Another condition seem to be to believe that God is close. Many people perceive God as ‘out there’, separate and remote, an impersonal Force stirring up the stars.  But for us to properly benefit from contemplating this benevolent God we also need to perceive him as ‘in here’ – close, personal, even intimate. Today many people are perceiving God as a ‘living spirit in every human being’. Others may express their perceptions as a loving caring knowing Presence in and around them, wherever they are, whatever is happening to them.  From my teenage years, God has seemed close. Most of the time anyway!

So what happens if you honestly don’t believe God is real? Amazingly, you do not need to believe in the reality of a benevolent close God for God to be good for your brain. The evidence seems to indicate that just pretending (yes, pretending!) that this God – benevolent and ‘in here’ as well as ‘out there’ – is real, and living in that pretence on a daily basis for six or eight weeks, will change your brain structure in your favour. It seems you’ll be happier, more relaxed, think more clearly and your brain will become more integrated and function better … just pretending God is close and on your side each day! Who knows, you may want to continue the experiment if it turns out really good, or maybe refine it.

OK, so I don’t need to pretend because I am a believer. You might not be right now, and may need to pretend to get the benefits.

I know it’s very subjective and not very scientific, but do me a favour and let me know what happens. Newberg reckons you need to meditate, for twenty minutes a day for six to eight weeks, on this God who you imagine to be both benevolent and close.

Hmmm. Sounds like the Kind Stranger to me.

The Kind Stranger Chapter 5: Before the beginning

The English Channel, Sept 2010

Yes, I know.  “Before the beginning” doesn’t make sense, does it, but the truth seems to be that the Kind Stranger knew me long before the beginning of our friendship. When I met him on that first day, he was completely new to me. Yet I could somehow detect that I wasn’t new to him.  He knew more than he would let on. Now I’ve learned to trust him, I’ve got over my initial suspicions about it all and relaxed.  It took a little while though.

However far back I choose to remember, now I know him better I can detect the shadow of his presence almost wherever I look. Everywhere.  On the day I was born, as I think back, he was there, his shadow all but invisible to the inattentive, imperceptive eye.

Before the beginning. Now I know the Kind Stranger was there, I’m reassured.  That means that all through those early school years, through my teenage experiences, school changes and family up and downs, he was there. During those relationship traumas, the sweet and embarrassing coming-of-age moments, the learning about myself and the opposite sex, that time of discovery of my own emotions of early love, that first kiss, he was the tender observer. I suppose it could seem almost voyeuristic, but that would profoundly miss the point. This was no shallow invasion of personal teenage privacy. This was the Kind Stranger doing what he does best: utterly caring for me. He allowed me to discover life in my way and in my time, tenderly protecting from the worst, yet letting me feel the pain necessary for me to learn the more important lessons thoroughly. Then I didn’t realise he was watching.  Now I’m glad he was. Then I might have wondered why he let it happen that way. Now I don’t need to question. Of all the people in the world, he is the one person from whom I have no wish – nor need – to hide.

Before the beginning. Could it be that he knew me before anyone else – even before my own mother? Could it be that from the moment I was conceived I was somehow known to him?  Before then? How impossible! Ridiculous!

But what if it was true? Let me think about that for a moment.  I met him on the street. He had arranged that meeting. He had chosen to make that the moment in history when we consciously met in time and space. Knowing the Kind Stranger as I do now, I’m confident that it was no arbitrary moment. He planned it! I needed to NOT know him for those earlier years. He knew my life would be better if that first encounter was exactly then. Not a moment too soon. Not a moment too late.  Perfect.

Perfect. How can I argue with that – apart from somehow setting myself up to pretend I know better than him – and we both know I don’t. And remember it seems he is not limited by my expectation that he should be physically visible to me – or audibly heard. Or tangibly touched. No. He is the benign master here.  He is the one who invites me to trust him for that too, and I do. He knows the what, the how, the when and the where. So there is no need to ask such an unanswerable question as why. Thankfully. It will save me hours of wondering. I don’t need to ask why.

Before the beginning. it’s patently impossible for someone as human as me to comprehend that. Before the beginning is more than a lifetime away. It’s outside time where there are beginnings and, inevitably, endings. If it is true he was around before the beginning, it  may also reveal that there is an ‘after the ending’.

I’ll need to think about that.

The Kind Stranger Chapter 4: A trip to the pottery.

Good morning!”

I’m getting used to the Kind Stranger sneaking up on me and surprising me.  Behind his smiling face is a playful sense of humour. Here I was getting on with my life, preparing breakfast in the kitchen. In he came, looking for me. KS is always welcome in our home.

“We’re going on a short trip today,” he said. “I’ve something to show you.”

By now I have learnt that he hears the deeper thoughts I have and responds to them without me needing to verbalising anything. I suspected this was another similar moment. It was.

But of course we didn’t need to get the car out and disappear down the road.  No, the Kind Stranger invited me to sit quietly with him, rest my mind, and wait. A few minutes later, I knew we were on the move, and soon we arrived at a village square.  You’ll probably have been there yourself.  It had an array of houses gathered around a village green.

“We’re going just over there”, he pointed to an old building with a light burning inside. We wandered over, he lifted the latch and we stepped inside.

We were in a workshoppy room, with pots everywhere, in various stages of completion. This, I realised was the village potter’s house, and I was unnerved to find that the old potter, working away at her wheel in the corner was oblivious to us.  I tried to talk to the old woman, but she didn’t hear me.  It was as if I was invisible to her. I slowly realised that I was.

I turned to the Kind Stranger to ask what all this was about when he put his finger to his lips to quieten me. He smiled. “Just watch,” he whispered.

I moved over to a workbench, pulled myself up onto it so I could sit more comfortably, and watched as instructed.

The Kind Stranger came and stood by me, and put his hand on my arm.  He often did this to reassure me and help me to relax. I felt myself take in deep breath and exhale slowly, feeling my shoulders drop and my breathing slow.

The Potter got up, moved past us, and unseeing, made her way to a bin of clay. Lifting the lid, she removed a lump of pure soft clay. Cutting a small amount from the lump the potter took it over to her wheel and began to carefully press it, mould it, and shape it. She took such care, and I was intrigued to watch her skills in action. Several times she stopped the wheel, and looked contemplatively at her amazing creation. It was absolutely beautiful. She had used her lifetime of skill to form a fine elegant pot that would undoubtedly be very valuable when it was finished.

Turning it slowly, she looked at each facet, checking it on the inside, on the outside, and smiled – a bit like the Kind Stranger did. Then, all of a sudden, she stopped. She had noticed a tiny flaw, a little impurity in the clay, hidden imperceptibly on the inside of the vessel. I expected her to pass over it, or take some spare clay and fix it somehow, but she didn’t. No, she gently put her hands around it and with the wheel spinning, crushed the entire pot back into a single lump of clay, and she began to make it again, a different vessel.

It hurt me to watch. I felt sad that such a nice pot would never be used by anyone or admired. Even though it was flawed it was still beautiful, still useful, still worth something. The mark was on the inside, not really visible, what was the big deal?  But I could see that to the potter it mattered. This was about her making the very most of the clay.

Something was happening inside me as I realised that the potter was not going to settle for second best. Of course, she knew that, in her hands, there was no need for any concern at all. She knew just what to do. This was clay of the highest quality and my guess is that she had paid a high price for that raw material. She had no desire to leave the clay flawed by an impurity and had no intention of moving on until that vessel was…

Exactly. The Kind Stranger  looked over at me and winked. We made our way out of the potter’s workshop, and soon we were back in my kitchen. I knew what this was about, and he knew I knew. It was about me, the value of my ‘clay’ and what I really needed right now. If I would allow myself to be …

I caught his eye. He smiled approvingly. Great. He had heard my unspoken decision.

The Kind Stranger Chapter 3: The Hug

When I was a child I remember playing hide and seek. We hid somewhere – in a cupboard, under a bed, and waited to be found. I remember the excitement and the peculiar emotion it created, as the finder crept from room to room in our rambling farm house looking for us. I remember so wanting to be found.

When I became a man and my own children were small they would run and hide and I would make a big fuss about “wondering where they were” as they hid, only half-hidden behind a curtain, desperately attempting to suppress their give-away giggles. When it was their turn to find me I wanted them to enjoy both the hunt and finding me, so I hid where they would find me easily.

These memories go through my mind now as I recall the mornings when I was waiting for the Kind Stranger to come. I knew he would find me if I sat quietly. I also knew he could not be manipulated or forced to come. He was far too strong and powerful for that. He had given me the key to our meetings: I must wait quietly. Like the little children, I was desperate for him to find me and, of course, he did.  He had promised.

I was in the garden, sitting at one end of our old swinging seat.  I had been there quietly for maybe ten minutes or so when I felt him come and sit at the other end. I couldn’t see him, but I knew he was there. You’ll probably know that feeling by now. It’s marked by an overwhelming sense of knowing that I’m loved, wanted and accepted just as I am, sitting just here, even though I don’t deserve it.

“Good morning,” he said, with joy in his voice, “And by the way, I’m not here because you deserve it, but because you’re now my friend.” He’d read my mind. It was as pointless to pretend I could hide my thoughts from the Kind Stranger as it was for the children as they tried to hide, giggling behind the curtain. He knew.

“And yes, I do very much.” That was a surprise. The thought had crossed my mind to ask him if he enjoyed coming to be with me like this.

“Thank you.” I said very quietly. It was lovely to know that he was so sensitive to me. I’d never had a friend like this ever before, and I was so very grateful. I felt him look at me directly and smile with love in his eyes.  Apart from my admission of my need on that day I met him, this was the first time I’d actually spoken to him out loud. Looking back, ‘Thank you’ was the perfect thing to say. I was just so so deeply thankful. I said it again, from the bottom of my heart. “Thank you.”

You know how I mentioned earlier how it felt as if he put his arm around me? Well, it felt like that again. I felt surrounded, embraced, hugged, by him. It was a warm, caring, ‘family’ hug, the sort of comforting hug that a loving older sister or brother might give a little child. I breathed “thank you” again, but the words were unnecessary.  He knew.

It was such a special moment for me. It is well established by now that physical contact, a meaningful touch, a simple caress makes such a difference to people, but this was so much more. It was all encompassing and went so deep. Although this wasn’t an actual physical touch, it felt like it – a bathing of my spirit, an acceptance of me as a person – it was as close as it gets. I drank it in, more and more, soaking in it, allowing that hug to overwhelm me, and it did. I started to sob.

I sat and cried on and off for the next ten minutes or more. They were tears of relief. I’d been found. It was as if his hug was melting the core of my being, softening it again, and the tears were merely a stream flushing away the debris of years. And they did flush it away. As the emotion subsided, I felt clean, whole, refreshed.

I turned to speak, but he had slipped away. That was OK. I knew he’d be back.

I also knew that his hug would be mine for ever.

The Video is here: http://www.youtube.com/user/serx50#p/a/u/0/DMqOmKBz2ug

The Kind Stranger. Chapter 2: The Second Encounter

Read the previous chapter? Then enjoy the second chapter of this amazing story…

It was the day after I met him that I first noticed a change. Now, as I think back, it is hardly surprising that it would affect my future life.  I had experienced something very special, and through the night I tossed and turned and wondered about it all. Was this really just a remote chance encounter, or was I missing something?   The Kind Stranger had singled me out for his attention. This was new to me – it had never happened before – well, not like this anyway. I didn’t know how significant it would be.

I felt both weakened and strengthened at the same time by that first encounter. It was the weakness that felt strangely good. My carefully constructed defences had softened. I had softened. I could sense myself more flexible, more open, and much more relaxed. For the first time in years I felt safer, stronger, in fact much stronger inside.

I decided to make a drink and sit down quietly. And that’s when I heard his voice again.

It felt so close, and it was not just in my head. It felt as if he was in the room with me, not physically, if you know what I mean, but definitely here. I put my drink down, and just sat, relaxed, attentive, waiting.

I know this sounds weird for a rational human adult, but to me it was as real as the chair, the drink, me sitting here, and I felt a wave of warm emotion as I heard the Kind Stranger’s voice again, as real as yesterday.

He was smiling still. You can tell when someone is smiling, can’t you. And this time his voice was quieter, more personal, almost intimate, but with that wholesome respect and trustworthiness I’d begun to associate with him. It wasn’t a whisper, just reassuringly quiet. Perhaps he knew I needed to hear him that way today.

“I said I’d come.” I heard him smile. “You can trust what I say.” How did he know that my trust in people was at a low ebb these days? “I’m here to remind you of the truth,” he said gently, “the truth about you.”

I wriggled a bit in my chair (I won’t admit to squirming!) and took a moment to settle myself. He waited. I took a deep breath, and as I relaxed he gently continued.

“From the moment you arrived on this earth as a human life until the moment you depart from it – and that includes now of course” (he smiled again) – “you have been, are, and forever will be of indescribable worth. The word I’d like to use is ‘priceless’. No amount of gold, diamonds, or any number of banknotes in any currency would compare with your worth.”

The Kind Stranger stopped for a moment to let his words sink in. They needed to. I had long doubted that I was worth anything much. Yet in his voice was a wonderful reliable confidence. He knew he was right, and in the deepest caverns of my soul I heard myself receive his words as truth for me. For the first time since I was a tiny child, I realised how valuable I really was. Priceless.

Overwhelmed, I felt my emotions well up. A single sigh, suppressed for so long within those deep echoey caverns, rose within me, and as I breathed it out, the doubt was gone. I knew the truth.

“I’ll be back soon.”  I think I may have felt his touch on my arm again as he left, though I could have imagined that.

I sat awhile, comfortably alone and at peace, consciously and unconsciously surrendering each part of my life to what he had told me. It would change everything.

Watch the video of Chapter 2 .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1i9AjJCXI_Q