The next time you are thinking of giving up . . . not stretching yourself . . . retreating back into your comfort zone . . . Remember a guy out in the desert who happens to meet someone through an open door.
Have you ever had that moment when you thought you could go no further? When one more step was going to kill you?
When I first started this journey of self-exploration, I did not know that was what I was on. Rather, I was a burnt-out man who did not know who he was or where he was going. Having defined myself by what I did occupationally, I found myself in a remote desert house seven miles from town on a dirt road. I did not have a reason to get out of bed in the morning because I had no place to go. No one was dependent on me . . . no one called me. In fact, except for my father, no one knew where I was.
After being involved in so many different occupations and lives, suddenly I was in a self-imposed exile. I wasn’t sure who I was. I never stopped my world enough to even consider that question. But I digress, or is that regress, a little.
My journey to this self-imposed exile was not planned by me. Not even contemplated by me. It was the result of a series of events which stopped my world.
About six months earlier, I arrived in Austin, Texas, to meet with a man who possibly could help me expand the market for our tote bags in the Southwest. It was 1979. As I arrived at my hotel, my uncle had decided to impress the clerk by phoning the front desk to inform them that Willie Nelson was at our house awaiting my call. Willie Nelson was a huge star, especially in Texas. The front desk person was very impressed and promptly told me when I arrived. Smiling, I nodded my head and proceeded to go along with my sudden increase in stature.
After the meeting the next day, I toured President Lydon Johnson’s Presidential Library on the campus of the University of Texas and thought about how much the world had gone through during his presidency. I had really just gone as a tourist, but it affected me.
Anyway, the next day I flew to Phoenix to meet my uncle and a family friend who had a strong connection with a large convenience store chain. When we got to the hotel from the airport, I just decompressed. I had had enough of everything . . . especially the demands on my time and expectations of being able to make this into a successful company . . . and it wasn’t working.
I did not want to go to the dinner meeting that night and almost stayed in the hotel. My uncle finally got me to go. The evening was a fascinating mixture of business, and unknown to me, an introduction to some family members. The next day we were off to California.
I had heard about a place called Two Bunch Palms in Desert Hot Springs. I booked a room for two days there during the week. It was a wonderful, soothing resort which helped to restore me. But what happened next was expected. My world stopped . . . and I was never the same.
While walking to the main building, my uncle and I passed a room whose door was open. He was always outgoing, so he popped his head in the door and found two young women playing a board game. He thought he had struck paydirt. Somehow, he got himself invited in and dragged me with him.
At the time, we were making tote bags out of recycled gourmet coffee bags . . . very socially conscious although that part was an afterthought. He casually mentioned that to the two women. One said she owned a boutique in Joshua Tree, California. She suggested I might come up there and show her our bags for the store.
And thus, that is how I met Sally.
As we sat on the king-size bed, the four of us played some board game. Sally talked about the magic of Two Bunch Palms and revealed she had studied Polarity, which is a therapeutic healing technique. After an hour or so, we departed, but before we did, Sally gave me her card and said to contact her the next time I was in the area to show her our tote bags.
About a month later, I was on airplane headed for Palm Springs to see Sally, but the tote bags were not the main reason.
My uncle and I returned to San Francisco where I was running the company. We were not having great success with selling tote bags.
We had negotiated with a man in Chinatown who had a sewing company to produce the bags for us. He would give out machines to women in the community who would sew the bags in their homes and bring them to his shop.
The warehouse that housed the coffee bag material was in San Rafael, which is across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County. I would go back and forth checking with them on stock. At one point, we ran out of lining material for the insides of the bags. As I had done before, I flew down to the Garment District in Los Angeles where I would find suppliers for the material. This particular trip was a morning in, evening out.
I flew into Los Angeles and immediately went downtown. I found a store which had exactly what I needed at a price I could afford. We put the bolts of cloth into the rental car, and I started to return toward the airport. Since it was early, I decided to stop for a late lunch. My choice would be one that changed my life forever.
I decided to eat at a small seafood restaurant which was owned by a friend of a former, maybe current, girl friend Laurel. I loved their food, and for some reason since I had only met the owner once, I never thought anyone would recognize me. I was wrong.
After eating and just before I left, the owner came out and said hello to me. I told her I was in town for the day and heading back to the airport. She asked me if I was going to call Laurel. Now, this was before cell phones (yes, there was an era where you had to call someone, and they had to be sitting in their home and pick up an instrument which had a cord running to the wall). This was the era I was in.
I told her no and that I was only in town for a few hours. She said that was too bad and then gave me a hug which was unusual. I thought nothing of it at the time. The woman was pleasant. She was nice to me. I left and went to the airport on my way back to San Francisco.
A few days later, I had a growth on my inner thigh just below the buttocks. It was not infected. It was not discolored. It was just a growth which slowly kept growing. After nearly a week, I was barely able to walk. There was no medical explanation for my condition. I knew that I had to do something or else I was going to be in big trouble.
Desperate, for some reason, I felt led that I should call Sally.
One of Sally’s gifts was she was an intuitive, although at that time I really did not know what that meant. What she said to me floored me. She said what I had sounded like an energy block. OK. Cue in the Twilight Zone music. But the next question could have soiled a strong man’s pants.
“Did anyone recently hug you? Someone you really didn’t know. Someone who seemed outwardly pleasant to you but was really very angry with you? As if you had betrayed the trust of a friend of theirs?”
“No, Sally. I can’t think of anyone who fits that description.”
“Are you sure?” Sally asked. “This is very important.”
“Well, last week, I stopped at a restaurant owned by a friend of my former, maybe current, girlfriend . . . and the owner came out to say hello. She did ask me if I was going to call Laurel. But she seemed to understand when I said I was only in LA for a few hours.”
“And when did this growth start?”
“When I returned from LA. A few days later.”
“Interesting. Well, I think I can help you if you want to come down. But I would not wait too long if you want to keep that leg.”
“You got to be kidding me.”
“No, I’m not.”
Two days later I was on a plane to Palm Springs. Barely able to walk, I drove up Highway 62 to someplace called Joshua Tree, California. And my whole perception of the world was about to change forever.
After my years of training in medicine and years working in a hospital with patients, I was not prepared for what I experienced with Sally. After forty-five minutes, the swelling was gone. I had experienced a healing that would soon transform my life forever and lead me on a journey that I am still on today, forty-three years later.
What I want to convey to you is that a chance meeting in the desert was not a chance meeting at all. When I look back and see the various points on that trip where I wanted to have a pity party and give up, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I did.
What if I decided to ditch the people who were waiting to meet me in Texas and Phoenix? What if I had decided that I was much too important and stood them up? What if my crazy uncle had not peaked into an open door in Desert Hot Springs and start a banter with two young women? What if we just stayed in the room and never ventured out?
Perseverance does have its rewards. Following through does have its rewards. Being true to your word has it rewards . . . they might not be earthly, but rather heavenly.
So, the next time you are thinking of giving up . . . not stretching yourself . . . retreating back into your comfort zone . . . Remember a guy out in the desert who happens to meet someone through an open door.
Let me repeat that, in case you missed it.
Through an open door.
Who proceeded to walk through that door.
Who accepted the invitation to play a naïve board game and get to know two other human beings.
Who were smart enough . . . or maybe intune enough . . . to keep their door open so a searching young man might wander by . . . and have his life changed forever.
Perseverance. Don’t shortchange yourself. But rather stretch yourself. And one of the best ways of doing that is to be of service to another.
When you want to give up . . . stop the music . . . think of that poor guy or girl who may be walking by your door . . . hoping someone will notice them . . . and their pain . . . and keep the door open for them.
When we focus on ourselves, we miss that we are all here to serve others.
Push through your pain so that you can show others how to escape theirs.
I thank God every day that Sally had kept her heart open . . . for I might not be here today.
My prayer is for you to return the same favor to someone you may meet on your journey through life that needs your help . . . and will receive it because you left your door open.
And invited them in.