The Legacy of Hope Summit

hatsuhinode-mountain (002)“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go, love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.” L.R. Knost

On February 4, 1983, Karen Carpenter, one of the 20th century’s (and this country’s) most recognizable, prolific, and beloved music icons died at the age of 32. Her reported cause of death? “Heart failure resulting from ipecac poisoning”. Her actual cause of death? Complications associated with Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. Historically, a high-profile celebrity death like Ms. Carpenter’s would serve to exponentially heighten public awareness relating to the culprit illness and act as a catalyst for fundraising efforts in support of medical and scientific research aimed at better understanding, seeking the early detection of, improving treatment protocols for, and ultimately eradicating and/or preventing the disease. Indeed, the historical landscape is littered with examples of that phenomena, particularly in the United States.

But, news about Ms. Carpenter’s illness and eventual death was different. Despite her substantial notoriety and the fact that, at least according to one biographer, hers was the first high-profile celebrity death caused by an eating disorder, Ms. Carpenter’s struggles and premature death did little to move the needle when it came to increasing awareness among the general public of these insidious, life-threatening diseases, let alone to prompt an outpouring of research funding aimed at identifying their root causes and educating health care professionals as to what could be done to more effectively treat them and prevent or temper their deadly proliferation. Instead, it resulted in the promulgation of what would turn out to be the first of many misguided, uninformed, and stigmatizing myths concerning these diseases, namely that “such illness[es] can be traced to the failings of mom and dad”.

Troublingly, in the nearly 4 decades since Ms. Carpenter’s death, proportionately little meaningful progress has been made in areas that affect virtually all eating disorder sufferers, including: (1) public awareness; (2) enacted state and federal legislative; (3) the availability, accessibility, and affordability of quality care; (4) the development of evidenced-based standards of care; (5) research and research funding needed to, among other things, first define and then refine those standards; and (6) strategies aimed at early detection, intervention, and prevention. Not surprisingly, during that same period, the number of people battling these often deadly diseases worldwide has increased in every decade and it continues to do so at an alarming rate. In fact, left unchecked, their prevalence may soon reach epidemic proportions and compete for a spot as this country’s number 1 public health crisis.

And yet, there still is no public outcry that something be done; no outpouring of state, federal, and private research funding; no insistence that life-saving care be afforded to and affordable by those who desperately need it; no teeth-baring state or federal legislation ensuring, among other things, fair insurer reimbursement for such care; and no nationwide educational initiatives aimed at early detection, intervention, and, ultimately, prevention. That’s about to change. Later this week, 24 highly-respected eating disorder experts and thought leaders will convene in pursuit of several ambitious goals: (1) to reach a consensus on initiatives that will have a significant impact on those afflicted with eating disorders; (2) to recommend concrete strategies for achieving those goals; (3) to anticipate likely obstacles to their achievement; and (4) to chart a course for navigating and overcoming those challenges.

Enough is Enough. It’s time to unite – for change, for healing. It’s time to leave an indelible legacy of hope.

Beyond The Broken

kintsugi before and after

Maybe if you walk long enough, often enough, with eyes and heart wide open, and in the right places, it just happens. You see some remarkable things. And I have: a young girl learning to ride a bike for the first time and celebrating the accomplishment with her dad; a weekend duffer finding the sweet spot and watching in disbelief as his perfectly struck iron shot soars through the air and settles within inches of the cup; the special bond between an old man and his dog; a pair of 80+ year-old lovers still holding hands; a child taking their first steps; a little boy with skinned and bleeding knees mustering the courage to get back on his two-wheeler and try again; breathtaking sunrises, sunsets and rainbows; a father hugging his teenage son with intention and compassion;  the magic of a game-winning goal; a single mom teaching her son how to throw a football; a friend drying another friend’s tears; orchids in bloom; the kindness of strangers; Santa Claus riding on the back of a firetruck; and rain falling on one side of the street, but not the other; to name only a few.

But, it’s the things I sometimes see in the ordinary, in images I’m certain I’ve seen a thousand times before, but, thanks to insights gleaned from hard lessons learned, I now see differently (perhaps as they were always meant to be seen) – that inspire me, resonate most deeply in my soul, and often stop me in my tracks.  And, so it was on a recent Saturday morning, as I came across a young bird picking up a tattered piece of fabric on the sidewalk and carrying it to a perch in a nearby tree, where she was in the early stages of building a nest.  I really hadn’t planned to give the moment a second thought and didn’t, until few steps later when I felt that now familiar stir inside of me.  Uncertain of its source, I continued on, making the nearly 2 mile circle back and then I saw her again, this time sifting, with the determination and enthusiasm of a holiday shopper, through a small pile of brown leaves at the base of a tree.  It was then that tears started trickling down the sides of my face and I hurried home to put them on paper:

What does she see . . .

in the tattered piece of cloth torn from a since discarded blanket?

in the fragile twig convinced it lacks the strength to survive, let alone contribute?

in the delicate feather left behind by a recently departed friend?

in the scrap of paper torn in anger from another letter of rejection?

in the fallen brown leaves certain their life was over?

in the tender reed bruised and buffeted by one too many storms?

in the straw, the piece of string, the remnants of an old cotton ball, the low hanging moss?

What does she see . . .

in the brokenness?

in the discarded?

in the misshapen?

in the ill-fitting?

in the left for dead?

What does she see . . .

that we can’t or refuse to see – that we walk by, dismiss, disregard, trample upon?

She sees beyond.

She sees missing and essential pieces.

She sees the blueprint of a home that is uniquely hers.

Pieces that woven together with tenderness, perspective, patience and care will one day provide her and those she loves with warmth, comfort, security and shelter,

that is beautiful –

that she is (rightfully) proud of.

Maybe as we prepare to turn the page on a New Year, we can resolve (dare I say commit?) to stealing a page from my new feathered friend’s songbook. Maybe we can allow ourselves to look beyond what may, on their face, appear to be the mistakes, brokenness, and ill-fitting pieces of our (and others’) pasts (or presents). Maybe we can see them for what they are: pieces of something bigger, something stronger, something more life-supporting, something that woven together, tenderly, patiently, lovingly, with all the good is our “home” – what makes us uniquely beautiful.  Maybe in the process we can replace the shame and guilt that we have associated with them with rightful pride for having battled and overcome. Maybe, for just a minute (and then another), we can entertain the possibility that those who love us most and know us best have been right all along:  We are all of that – the broken and the beautiful – and still loved and worthy of love beyond measure.

The Need To Be Noticed


“We’re all just waiting for someone to notice—notice our pain, notice our scars, notice our fear, notice our joy, notice our triumphs, notice our courage.” Rachel Macy Stafford

It’s not often I get out for a Saturday morning walk before the break of dawn anymore. But, today I did – and I’m glad. Because as soon as I crossed the street that leads from the entrance to our apartment building to my walk route, I came across a small calico kitten lying in the dew-stained grass of a large field near the sidewalk. She was shivering cold, scared to death, and alone. My initial instinct was to scoop her up and take her home with me and I actually would’ve if I could’ve, but I’m allergic to cats; so, I did what, in the moment, seemed like the next best thing. Despite knowing that it likely would mean spending the remainder of my 6 mile journey sniffling and sneezing, I stopped, bent down as softly and as slowly as I could so as not to scare her away, and gently began to brush the tiny droplets of moisture left behind by a long night spent in the weeds off her back. As the trust between us grew, I moved my hand to the side of her face and began to stroke it for a few minutes, all the while staring in her eyes. By the time I stood up to continue on my walk, I could’ve sworn I saw her smile – not because I’d “rescued” her, but because I’d noticed her, taken a moment to care – offered a tiny seed of hope that today might be a little different, a little kinder than yesterday.

As I walked away, it occurred to me that there are lots of “little kittens” like my new friend walking around on two feet in this world. Some are doing their level best to hide in the weeds, while others are sharing our church pew on Sunday, our lunch room at work, our classroom at school, our Social Media networks – even our dining room table at home – insisting they’re “fine”. Yesterday, one of them, a young South Florida lawyer with a two year-old son and a beautiful wife put a gun to his head and took his own life. I didn’t know the man, except through a mutual friend, and I don’t pretend for a minute to have any understanding of the demons he was battling or how long he’d been fighting them. I’m also not naïve enough to believe for a minute that a few words of encouragement or affirmation would have made a meaningful difference, let alone led to a different outcome. But, maybe they could have helped if they’d come at the right time, been uttered by the right person, struck just the right chord or opened the door of hope just wide and long enough to allow his troubled soul to catch a glimpse of the possibility that tomorrow could be different – and maybe they will for someone like him, someone you know or may encounter as you walk through life.

I can’t help but think there’s a lesson to be learned from this young man and this morning’s encounter with my precious little friend. Perhaps it’s that we’re all in this Life thing together; that loneliness and fear are real and far more prevalent and life-threatening than we realize; that we all have the capacity to be a little more attentive to each other; that sometimes we are called to look beyond polite assurances to family, friends and colleagues that someone is “fine” into eyes that, on closer inspection, plainly reveal a deeper, darker truth – and not ignore it when we see it; that we can’t afford to make assumptions about someone’s happiness or emotional well-being based on how many FB friends or Twitter followers they have or how many smiling faces they post on Instagram; and that, contrary to what we may believe, all of us have the time to step outside of ourselves, to stop and offer an ear to listen, an open heart to empathize, and open arms to offer a moment of comfort and reassurance. Sometimes that moment may be all it takes to reignite a pilot light of hope, give birth to a commitment to take a first step on the road to recovery or the next, or at least inspire a willingness to finish out the day and give tomorrow a chance.

The little kitten wasn’t there when I made my way back to the apartment this morning. I’d like to think it’s because a friend came along and invited her to play or that she found her way home to a worried mom and dad. In fact, I did think that – and this time the smile was mine!

*Photo credit: Stephanie Martinez-Simm, Esq.

Let Me Be Love


Let Me Be Love (A Prayer)
(Adapted from Rachel Macy Stafford’s, “Only Love Today”)

Dear God,

Let me be love.

Not the shiny, perfectly worded, flashy, flowery love that comes when it’s convenient and goes when it’s not.

No, let me be the messy, genuine, put in the effort, feel it in your bones, Come As You Are kind of love.

Let me be the Show Up kind of love that is found where it is least expected and when it is most needed.

Let me be the Mountain Moving kind of love that offers and inspires hope and makes growth possible.

Let me be the Unconditional, Limitless kind of love that rises with the sun and stretches beyond human failings and shortcomings.

Let me be the Lighthouse kind of love, a beacon of light in the swirling storms of life that leads to a safe and peaceful harbor.

Let me be the All In kind of love that risks it all, holds nothing back, and encourages honesty and transparency.

Let me be the Wholly Accepting, Open-Hearted kind of love that makes for a soft place to lay one’s head at night for both the giver and the receiver.

Let me be that love.


Image Credit: @ttetereva

Fear Of The Dark


When I was a little boy, I was afraid of the dark – VERY AFRAID.

The thing is: I’m not sure whether, like most children, my fear was born of the dangers I imagined existed on the bedroom side of the door – the monsters hiding in my closet, under my bed, or just outside my window – or the ones I knew existed on the other side of it – the iron, albeit often shaky hand of a dictator, the alcohol-fueled arguments between people who professed to “love” each other (and me), the sound of splintering plate glass and stemware in the middle of the night – or both. All I know for sure is that the fear was real, palpable, at times even paralyzing, suffocating and that it hung like a guillotine blade in the air above my bed, which is why, night after night, as soon as I heard her footsteps cross the threshold that led from the bedroom hallway to the family room, I hurried to the door, stealthily opened it just a crack, raced back to my bed – and hoped. I knew the futility of it all. I knew that the sliver of light would only be mine for a moment. That it would disappear just as quickly – often with an aggressive and emphatic slam to reinforce the message, to remind me (and my siblings) who was in charge.

You see, my mother had long since befriended the dark and (I think) in her own misguided way was intent on my learning to do the same even if it meant force feeding it. It was her way (one of her ways) of toughening me up, of preparing me for a world that, I only later learned, for her, had been a dark and scary place for a very long time. Regrettably, tragically it was the only thing she knew – but the last thing on earth a came-into-this-world-too-sensitive me wanted to know. She escaped to it, sought refuge for her shame and guilt-ridden soul in it, but I wanted none of it. I wanted a mom. I wanted to be held. I wanted to be checked on. I wanted to be seen. I wanted to be reassured that light was just around the corner – available whenever I needed it. And so our evening dance continued – me seeking the light, her dispelling it. Eventually, it stopped. I got a transistor radio that substituted for a mom. Depending on the season, I listened to play-by-play announcers broadcast baseball, basketball, even hockey games from all around the country. They kept me company and their metronomic, dulcet tones rocked me to sleep.

If I’m to be honest, however, my fear of the dark never completely went away. I still find myself preferring to have at least some light on somewhere when I go to bed at night. It’s also why I’m careful to leave a light on if I know it’ll be dark when I come home and fumble first for the foyer light switch when I walk through the door of a darkened hotel room. It’s not that I still worry that an imaginary boogeyman is lurking somewhere nearby. Like most childhood wounds of its kind, it’s much more complicated, insidious, and deep-seated than that. For me, the darkness is a daily dredging up of R-rated emotions seared into my soul, emotions that no young child should ever be exposed to (loneliness, fear of abandonment, a sense of invisibility, unworthiness, unlovability) – scars that easily could’ve (and should’ve) been avoided by an occasional hug, a moment of empathy and compassion, a word of comfort and reassurance, a recognition of the responsibility that comes with parenting a heart that sees and feels it all – and that you have one of those – a moment’s curiosity about the seemingly insatiable need for just a glimpse of light. But, here’s the irony of it all:  In her eagerness to dispel the light, what my mom actually “taught” me was the criticality of rooting out and dispelling darkness – in all of its forms – and for that I am eternally grateful.

Last weekend, I passed a playground on my morning walk and saw a young mom laughing and bouncing on a rickety wooden bridge with her two little boys as if she were 4 years old again. “She will never close the door on them,” I thought to myself as I walked by – that and how incredibly lucky they are!


The Darkness Is A Jealous Mistress

“I once asked my mentor what was the most powerful advice he’d given or received in his thirty plus years of practice. ‘That’s an easy one,’ he replied. ‘Let love in’.” Stephanie May Camacho

Despite what I likely told you at the time, I realize now that I didn’t step into this space searching for answers about myself – how it was that I could’ve done so much for so many for so long and yet still felt (and been) so all alone; how it could be that my heart seemingly knew no limits when it came to giving to other hearts in need and yet was so incredibly inept when it came to receiving love for itself; why my best – my absolute best – routinely elicited accolades from and, on occasion, even the envy of others, but never registered with me as being even marginally good enough; how someone could appear so put together, so in control of his world and his emotions on the outside and yet be so broken (shattered really) on the inside. No, I came in looking for a fight, hell-bent on finding out what was wrong with everyone else – why they didn’t get it (get me) – how they could be so oblivious, so indifferent to my pain – and when what I found instead was love, compassion, open arms, grace, empathy, and the prospect (however remote) of hope and healing, I started one.

And so, for the better part of the next three months, we butted heads you and me. Actually, I was the one who did most of the butting. Week after week, I came in not with humility and a heart open to change, but with another story, another compelling example of how I had been wronged, misunderstood, disrespected, underappreciated, overlooked, taken advantage of – unseen. In my mind, I had more than enough evidence (ammunition) in my stockpile to prove every point, a rock-solid case for why none of it had anything to do with what was wrong with me and everything to do with what was wrong with the rest of the world. I was on a mission and, for weeks on end, you just sat there – mostly in silence – never taking a note, absorbing every verbal body shot I delivered, saying just enough to make it clear you were listening (carefully) to every word, that not a single one of the thousands of tears I shed fell unnoticed, and that, in spite of my often offensive and angry words, I was welcome to come back. I’m sure more than once you wondered, as I did, if I would … if I could see that your lack of engagement had less to do with you not getting it, than with you not buying it … but, come back I did.

And then, one day it happened.

I don’t even remember what it was we were arguing about, all I remember is that I’d had enough – enough of you finally pushing back against a misguided narrative I’d been telling myself for a lifetime and grown quite comfortable with; enough of you calling bullshit on my tired tales of woe – no matter how compelling my side of the story presented; enough of you insisting that I entertain the possibility that there was another, less self-victimizing side to those stories that told a very different tale – one grounded in a deeply wounded little boy; enough of you trying to convince me there was a better, less defensive, more open-hearted way to live; enough of you chipping away at the walls of my heart that I’d spent so much time building and reinforcing and took much pride in. And so, as had become my go-to move whenever I’d had enough, I got up to leave – without a word – and you in mid-sentence. And I would’ve left had I not seen the tears spontaneously streaming down the sides of your face – and known they were of my making. “I wonder if you realize how much that hurts,” you said simply. Sitting back down was the best decision I ever made.

I’m not sure what it is about the darkness that causes those lost or trapped in it to push the light of love away, when love is offered and what’s needed most, but the phenomenon is real. I know, because I’ve experienced it in my own life and in the lives of those I love (dearly) more often than I care to think about, let alone admit. And, I was about to do it again that day, a drowning man all but scoffing at a life preserver – a hand and heart repeatedly, unconditionally, non-judgmentally outstretched in love, offering a moment of grace, of peace, of respite from a storm that, truth be told, had been raging around and inside of me for far too long. Yet, the darkness would have none of it and, true to where I was in that moment, neither would I. Fortunately, this time around the light won! It’s part of the reason my go-to move now is to stay, lean in a little closer, and love harder. It’s also why I refuse to give up – on the wounded, the lost, and the lonely – no matter how many times they pull away or how effusive they are in insisting they’re “fine”, that “they’ve got this!” There’s simply too much hanging in the balance to let the darkness win!


547 Square Feet

Apartment (003)

547 square feet …

the emptiest of nests.

Room enough

for a bed to sleep in,

a small love(less) seat to collapse on at the end of another too long day,

a TV for the occasional binge watch,

a tiny kitchen to cook a simple meal,

a shower,

a closet barely built for one,

and a small desk for writing – lots of writing.

1 year …

that seemed like eternity.

Time enough

to catch your breath,

to start from scratch,

to find and then piece a broken “you” back together one misshapen shard at a time,

to take an honest inventory,

to shed a tear or two (thousand) at what you see,

to glimpse an occasional sunrise,

to surrender to the true longing of your heart

to learn to be love – and (finally) let love in.

Sometimes we need to go back to the scene of the crime – to the wounds, the scars, the pain – with the eyes of an Overcomer.

Not for the purpose of heaping more hurt on ourselves, but to appreciate

how far we’ve come,

how much resilience, courage and perseverance it took to get here,

how radically different the light is from the darkness and we are from the person who was at the beginning of the journey,

the non-linear and inescapably individual nature of all paths to recovery,

to remember all the times the sun did come up, despite our Inner Bully’s relentless insistence that we were undeserving of it’s warm invitation to begin again,

to be awash in gratitude for those who refused to give up on us in our darkest hours,

who, time and time again, offered outstretched (non-judgmental) hearts and hands to help us up when we slipped (or fell),

who held loneliness at bay, when we were certain it would overwhelm us,

and, if you’re a person of faith, to see God’s hand, faithfulness, and steadfast love at work in it – ALL of it.

Make no mistake: Life is hard and it’s way harder for some (and in some seasons) than others.

But, if you stay with it long enough – if you keep your heart (wide) open – chances are you’ll find Life’s fullness (or its fullness will find you) and yours will never be the same again.