His Sad Eyes Blessed Me

For a dozen years I was an LDS Home Teaching companion to a fellow who was mentally handicapped.  Harold was a wonderful man, full of childlike humility and love.  His large stature was balanced by an equally large, continuous and genuine smile.  His not always intelligible speech would always be clarified by his patient and repeated attempts to convey what he knew he was saying. But said in “Haroldspeak,” it would take more than a few attempts for me to understand. Harold passed away this past week. My wife and I, along with my little dog, Buddy Wu LI (He is a Schipperke, a Belgium barge dog), drove the 4 hours to St. George (Utah) to participate in and attend his funeral.  I was privileged to say a few words. With my guitar, I sang a slightly altered version of the Mormon Primary song, “I Am a Child of God.”  The funeral was not a sad affair, more a celebration of a special man. Indeed special: the first mentally handicapped boy in Utah (perhaps in the entire country) to earn the Eagle Scout Badge. Having a certain belief in Life after earthlife, I know I will one day reunite and celebrate with a now perfect, whole, and precious man.

But this blog was not intended to be about Harold.  It is intended to be about the homeless hitchhiker I encountered at the halfway point rest stop near Cove Fort, Utah. As I walked into the small convenience store that sponsored the rest stop, a man in his late twenties was sitting on a bench in front of the store.  His clothing was dirty and worn. Apparently all that he owned as he had the contents of a small backpack laid out on the bench beside him.  There was a piece of climbing rope, something I’m sure he had salvaged in his travels, a cell phone taken apart with the battery outside of it. Again something I’m thinking he picked up. Some soda crackers, and small pieces of cloth were about all I could notice as I walked past him. As I looked at his face, his nose had a large recent scab from a fight or a fall. But what affected me most was the sadness reflected in his eyes.  I recognized it. It was a sadness I had known earlier in my life. A hopelessness only those who have experienced could recognize. As I walked into the store, I felt haunted by those eyes. There was no anger in them, no hatred, no victim. Just a profound sadness.  I encounter homeless from time to time in the small city I live in. They seem to notice me as they usually ask if I have a “dollar” to  spare. It’s probably because I am usually wearing an “Affliction” shirt; or I just look like someone who understands Karma.  But this man’s hand was not out and no query was offered.  He seemed intent in examining the few possessions he owned.  As I entered the small store, a parable I had been pondering earlier in the week came to mind. The setting for this teaching of Jesus’ was in the now-cleansed temple on Tuesday of Passion Week (The week before Easter Sunday). It would be Gethsemane on Thursday and The Cross on Friday. It was a parable that Jesus must have given with great love and concern for those He would soon leave.  It ends with “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Having earned, through my alcoholism and addiction, membership in the “Least of These My Brethren,” club, daily encounters with this “social class” are more pronounced.  When I left the store, I had to get the man’s attention to hand him the few dollars change I had.  He immediately recognized me as the man who was “walking the little black dog and playing the guitar in the grassy area near the rest stop.” I had taken a moment to tune my guitar and practice the song I would sing at the funeral.   His intelligent response and keen attention was unexpected.  He said, “Do you have a leash for your dog?” I replied in the negative as I never put Buddy on a leash. He is more than obedient to my every command and request. The fellow reached into his bag and pulled out a quality retractable dog leash and offered it to me with the explanation that he had picked it up when someone had left it at an earlier rest stop. He had kept it thinking maybe he would encounter a stray dog in his travels.  He offered it to me. I mumbled something about Karma and went back into the store for a bag of chips.  I had to leave quickly. He would have noticed the tears in my eyes.  I really wanted to just hug him and tell him that in Surrender to God he would be protected and things would be OK.  With my purchase, I obtained some cash and, upon leaving the store, handed the man enough money to help him a little on his way.   As I walked back to my car, I felt an almost overpowering love for this, just moments before, stranger.  His parting gentle  “Bless you” echoed through my mind as I drove away. I am sure I will never forget his sad eyes. Truly–he had blessed me; and, surely–He had blessed me!

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Brigham Young on “Who has the greatest reason to be thankful?”

In the Epilogue to Perfect Brightness of Hope (page 188), I provide the following quote from Brigham Young, Second President of the LDS Church.  In view of the prevailing misunderstandings regarding addictions and alcoholism, it is worthy to examine this quote against ourselves:

“Who has the greatest reason to be thankful to his God–the man that has no strong passion or evil appetite to overcome, or the one that tries day by day to overcome, and yet is overtaken in a fault?

Who has the reason to be the most thankful? The being that has comparatively no strong passion to overcome ought constantly to walk in the vale of humility, rather than boast of his righteousness over his brother.  We are under obligation, through the filial feeling and ties of humanity, to more or less fellowship those who do evil . . . If brethren and sisters are overtaken in faults, your hearts should be filled with kindness–with brotherly, angelic feeling–to overlook their faults and far as possible. [Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1977, page 180)] Emphasis added.

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His Holiness, The Dalai Lama on “The Root of This Civilization”

I was recently re-reading Essential Teachings: His Holiness The Dalai Lama, (North Atlantic Books, 1995) when I came across this quote.  I was taken a back by the awesome power and simple truth of his observation: (Bold and Italics added by Phil)

Look around us at this world that we call “civilized” and that for more than 2000 years has searched to obtain happiness and avoid suffering by false means: trickery, corruption, hate, abuse of power, and exploitation of others. We have searched only for individual and material happiness, opposing people against each other, one race against another, social systems against others.  This has led to a time of fear, of suffering, murder, and famine . . . It is because each person has looked only for his own profit without fear of oppressing others for selfish goals, and this sad and pitiful world is the result. The root of this civilization is rotten, the world suffers, and if it continues in this way, it will suffer more and more.” (pg. xii)

His Holiness offers the cure–and he does so with so much love and conviction!  Can we not practice and train ourselves daily to comply?

“Training our minds, renouncing excess, and living in harmony with others and with ourselves will assure us happiness, even if our daily life is ordinary. And if we should encounter adversity, others will help us because we have been good and kind. We must not forget that even in the most perverted and cruel human being, as long as he is human, a small grain of love and compassion exists that will make him, one day, a Buddah.” (ibid, pgs 6-7)

Observe everything – judge nothing. I offer this teaching with the deepest of love and gratitude to each of you.

Namaste, Phil

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Living @5: A Spiritual Course in Thought & Time

In the near future I will begin a series of BLOGS on my Lifeskills course, “Living @5: A Spiritual Course in Thought and Time.”  I created this course to teach concepts for healthy living to inmates at a local county jail. I have been teaching this daily (well most days)  for over 5 years.  The skills taught are so badly needed in today’s environment.  As I recently read in a comment by the Dalai Lama: “The roots of our society are rotten.” (Essential Teachings of the Dalai Lama -Introduction and on back cover).  My “Living @5 Tree” addresses the rotten roots. More – much more- to come.

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Thanks For Your Book Reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

I want to thank each of you who have supported the new publication of PBH. Thank you deeply and from my heart for the great ratings you have given the new book on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.

Thank you for reviews you might yet give. Thank you for supporting the desperately needed message of my book – love, compassion and non-judgement! In gratitude I live. In gratitude I honor all that is good.

Phil

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Intended Audience for “Perfect Brightness of Hope” (Segment 1)

On a hot Sunday morning in July, 1980, following a week of heavy binge drinking and in great despair and hopelessness, I walked mile after mile through neighborhoods in the small Mormon community where I lived. As I walked, I observed many families leaving their homes to attend church. Even though I was filled with remorse and sorrow, I could still feel the goodness of these families. I realized that they had no idea of the sorrowful man who walked, with heavy burden, on the sidewalks of their neighborhoods. On that morning there arose within me a powerful conviction to someday write of my experiences as a Mormon alcoholic. (See page 85 of Perfect Brightness of Hope).

Contrary to the popular notion about my story, the intended audience for my “someday book” that morning was not the alcoholic or addict. It was just the opposite. The powerful desire I felt that morning was to someday help the “good person” —those with no clue about the plight of the alcoholic—to better understand this deadly disease and the plight of those who have it. I was filled with compassion towards the good people I saw that morning.  I felt that if I could someday increase their understanding of me as an addict/alcoholic, I would also increase their compassion toward me, and others like me.  (To be cont.)

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