From Texas to Newtown
Several years ago, I was invited to speak to a class in Texas. An excited professor asked if I could do an extra talk to broader community -- I said sure, only to discover that only 4 folks had showed up. Of course, I speak with the same gusto whether I'm engaging with one person or thousands, so we circled up and I let loose as usual. :) And it turned out one of those four students was deeply transformed. The ServiceSpace stories, inner transformation, Awakin gatherings, Smile Cards and the whole but end up traveling to her mom. As serendipity would have it, her mom was on the cusp of starting an effort dedicated to her nephew (Vishal) who had passed away from cancer. To encourage them, we packed a whole bunch of ServiceSpace goodies and tagged them anonymously. One of tag items was Infinite Vision book; and incidentally, Vishal (her nephew) would always sign off his paintings with an infinity symbol. And Infinite Love was born in McAllen, TX, on Valentine's Day of 2012.
These are tough communities, home of extreme poverty and violence surrounding drug cartels. Yet, this was a family of Sufis, who had a strong faith in our inherent oneness and love. They started. In small ways, at first -- with Wednesday meditations and Smile Cards. It soon rippled into many other things. They thought about bringing thought leaders to their Valley; its not a very appealing invite, considering that Laredo is infamous for being the largest city in America without a bookstore. But these people got crafty and persisted in drawing community of listeners and speakers. This week, Elizabeth Gilbert and I spoke there.
On the face of it, Elizabeth Gilbert is the headline story. But that's really not it. The headline story is a deeply transformative movement of love that this most unsuspecting family has become an instrument for. I've written some stories here: Two Days of Infinite Love
As they repeatedly joked before and after the event, we called Elizabeth Gilbert to draw the crowd and we called you to infect the Rio Grande Valley with ServiceSpace kind of love. :) Hints of our ServiceSpace work from around the world are to found everywhere in their local ecosystem. The program booklet had a copy of Smile Cards and glorious stories of love that the community is doing. People who had never known about silence are sitting for their Wednesday gatherings. Some discussed this week's Awakin reading with me, while some reminded me of their favorite KarmaTube video or DailyGood story (which incidentally featured Elizabeth today). A Moved By Love art piece rests joyously on their welcome table. A 17-year-old tells me how she was lost but after coming to Infinite Love, she is found. :) She now wants to become a healer -- and is starting with young folks in her own school. The spirit of inner transformation is felt through their ecosystem.
I take the time to write all this, primarily to say thank you for all that silent, small work that you've all been doing for practically fifteen years. As a collective, we are happily spoiled :) with daily affirmations of lives that have been touched by ServiceSpace's work in the world. But here seems to be an entire community that is collectively shifting, in part due to the vibration of service that we continue to hold space for. Very profoundly touching.
Serendipitously, right as I returned home yesterday, Adam Grant introduced me to Aaron -- who lives in Newtown and whose daughter was friends with three of the kids who were shot dead. They are starting a Newtown Kindness initiative to respond to violence with love and just became introduced to our work. This morning, Aaron writes back: "I have spent some time this morning on the sites that you have brought to my attention and I feel more inspired than ever! So much goodwill lives and I loved reading all about it. I am so grateful that you have included us in your movement. Frankly, it is embarrassing for myself personally to have required such a tragic event to awaken my own focus in the area of kindness. With that said, many of us here in our Newtown community are working very hard to help create the ripple effects of compassion similar to your own causes. We believe that our journey has just begun."
In my thank-you note to the Infinite Love team, I ended with a Kabir quote that seems apt: "The flute of the infinite is ceaselessly playing and its sound is love."
With love, :)