I once met a man who was living with abundance.
He had been given his name but a name does not matter.
What matters is how he lived and everywhere he walked he left a shining shadow of unwavering gratitude.
People enjoyed standing in his peace.
Standing next to this tough and rough old soul was like standing on the beach watching the sunrise over the surf.
We all know how it feels.
Those first rays of the sun caressing your cheeks.
It feels like being kissed by Mother Earth.
He was a blessing, but initially I felt far from blessed.
We crossed each other’s paths over 25 years ago.
He was skeptical of me and I was dismissive of him.
This man’s peaceful eyes stared straight through my false pride, yet he still gave me his time.
I was a broken man from the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney still trying to hang on to the bells and whistles I had accumulated in a decade or so of greed and waste.
He was a man who had seen the best and worst of life but had decided to change for the better.
We both had a problem with alcohol, but he had decades of sobriety.
I refused to let go of a crutch I knew was killing me and breaking the love and trust of those I held dear.
As I look back on that moment, what this creased faced, broken nosed man said changed my life.
He gave me dignity by quietly uttering his wisdom on a wooden bench, behind a stone hall, in the corner of a church yard.
He did not lecture.
Nor did he stand in judgement.
He merely passed on his collective truth.
Looking deep into my eyes, past the pupils and into my heart, this is what he said;
‘David if you were wrong about your drinking maybe you are wrong about everything else in your life.’
He stopped talking, shifting on that cold, wooden seat and let his words drop.
The spoken word is powerful.
Even more effective when spoken with humility and without padding.
What he said fractured my spirit, but I did not show my hurt.
In fact, I thought it was the biggest crock of crap I had ever heard.
He had offended me.
I was a successful man in a big, brassy city but I was just as fragile as the city I hid within.
The Eastern Suburbs of Sydney in the naughty nineties was all show and little substance and I had swum in its hollow excess.
Anyway, a few years went by and this man kept living in abundance and I kept bumbling and stumbling my way to an ugly demise.
He knew that the private school for your kids, the 5 star resort in Nusa Dua and the pedigree dog mean nothing when you are dead in the ground.
Then, one night, as I lay awake staring at a stained wall in a cheap, rented room I realized he was right.
And I was wrong.
It was to be one of many spiritual awakenings I have endured and embraced.
Some extremely painful and other a rapturous joy.
I had finally woken up and in awakening I became witness to the silence between myself and another human being.
However, I could not hear the silence until I was completely honest with the man I had become.
The perfection I had fought so hard to achieve was a false promise, and in the chase, I had sacrificed my masculinity.
Growth sits in accepting you are a man.
And manhood is full of fault.
Fractured and childish.
We are all children and I am not special.
Growing older is not a winning ticket to maturity.
And I am not different.
I am just one man among many.
And that’s ok.
What a relief!
It has been many years since my last drink of alcohol.
Most days are full of love and peace yet there are days that loom over me like a mountainous swell in a southern winter storm.
And I wake up full of anxiety and as my stomach knots in balls of regret, I think back to that moment on a school bench.
It was a blessing and that simple man was an angel.
He was completely comfortable in who he had become, and thankfully, I survived long enough to hear his truth.
I HAD been wrong about nearly everything in my life, and each new day has become a chance to change, and when I reach out to another human being, I have a good chance of moving forward with love.