Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Our Friend Darren

Yesterday I attended a memorial service to honor a man who left a profound mark on our community. I did not stand up to speak then but would like to share these words.

There was a large crowd, well over 200. In listening to the many memories of Darren and the many good deeds he had done, I learned of the legacy and gift of Darren's time here among us. I heard story after story of how Darren showed up and made things happen, literally. He created a softball program and state of the art facility for his daughter’s high school with elbow grease and I'm guessing his boyish charm. His fellow coaches could not say enough about their friend that would miraculously appear with whatever was needed to manifest this dream. Whether it was a bull dozer or back hoe, Darren somehow showed up with the supplies and equipment needed to make this dream field a reality. He wasn't only involved in softball. Darren showed up for games and performances for each of his 5 children, from ballet to football to softball. He showed up.

Grown men cried, their grief overwhelming, their loyalty and friendship to Darren and his family, resounding. What has Darren taught us?

A picture his lifetime was painted in words and emotion. As a child Darren spent the school year in Healdsburg and summers in Hawaii with his Mom. In what sounded like a wonderful and carefree childhood had to have been at least a bit difficult moving around so. Darren spent time living with many families that still call him brother. The one thing he truly wanted in his life, was a big family. He succeeded in creating a big family, one that went well beyond blood lines.

The net he wove of tasks and deeds earned him respect, but he did more. The tasks were not Darren, the magic was. He brought people together to build dreams and then make them come true. Looking in, it seems apparent that he worked at connecting many people’s lives to create that very big family.

One of his daughters said to me, "I don't even know these people." Feeling, perhaps, lost among this sea of people, strangers who all showed up out of their love for her father. I felt sad for her. Grief is so personal and she seemed uncomfortable at having to share this symbolic goodbye with strangers. Maybe I am wrong, and she too was overwhelmed by the overflow of love.

As the stories continued and folks pointed upwards in reference to him I was soothed by the feeling that he was not above us but rather among us. He wasn't watching over us, he was milling around with a beer in one hand and a Jello shot in the other.

My work brings those in mourning, those with a desire to know if their loved ones are safe, if they are ok. Two constant messages from the other side to loved ones are, "Only my body is gone.", and "The pain I knew is gone, I am at peace." I trust this is true for Darren. A man who asked for nothing and endured pain we know nothing of, is thank God, without pain. We are the ones with pain, not Darren.

What is the legacy of Darren's too short time here among us? Darren fostered enduring relationships and loyalty that will hold his family in their grief and allow them to heal and grow through it. The seeds of generosity that Darren planted will grow through his children and they will feel his love through their community for many years to come.

Darren literally created the softball community. He coached a generation of young women who I believe, saw the example of a "real man". Darren’s physical and intellectual strength, a productive disposition that did not whine and complain showed those girls that you can make something out of nothing. Darren got things done, all with one of the most beautiful smiles you have ever seen.

I remember Darren as a great Cribbage partner with a booming laugh and a sincere desire to make people happy.

As the memorial concluded all were invited to share food, wine, beer and yes of course, Jello shots. Our friend Darren left this world a better place.

Please keep the Barnes family in your highest thoughts and prayers as they begin to adjust to their changed lives. We must remember that the space between us disappears in prayer. God Bless you Darren.

                          Darren William Barnes
                  January 21, 1965 – May 11, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Thank You Charlie Sheen

How many people have both entertained and thoroughly disgusted us? Viewing the disintegration of a celebrity is somehow affirming and disturbing at the same time. The excessively public downfall of Charlie Sheen stirs many things in me from pity, to compassion, to wonder.

I have met clients from all walks of life. Many  had been blessed with great financial abundance have been taken to their knees, broke and bankrupt, yet somehow, they manage to roll with it.

In the news we see major companies relying on the government to prop them up yet they are allowed to continue their lavish excess. Why the double standard?

Charlie Sheen is all about a double standard. He is the epitome of excess and moral bankruptcy. He seems to be the embodiment of all that is wrong with business, government and society.

Did his wealth create his entitlement, or was he first filled with it? Certainly there are many who are blessed with great wealth that are confronted with addiction, it is rampant. The addiction comes not only to substances, it comes to shopping, status, sex, and gambling. Most of us have personal experience or have witnessed friends or a family member crumble under the weight of chronic addiction. The difference of course is our pain is handled in private. Private interventions from caring friends and family that reach-out in desperation to support the loved one from the darkness back to the light.

The public spectacle Charlie Sheen has made of himself seems to be just cause to judge him. We can look at him and decide many things about what is wrong with him and what he "should" do, after all, he's putting himself out there proclaiming "Winning". Yes, we can do that. We can stand among those who feel no power in the direction of their lives. To stand in judgment is always, to stand as a victim.

Double standards stir anger, they are unfair. The double standard we allow for those with money and power is that they are eccentric and therefore are above the law.

Wouldn't it be incredible if the "law" we all followed were not only those enforced by police agencies, but by the one great spiritual law, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

If we were to view Charlie Sheen through the lens of "There but by the grace of God, go I", I believe that we might see that he is showing us a slice of ourselves that repulses us. We are quick to spot what is wrong in another and slow to acknowledge it within ourselves. This is pervasive from our "leaders" to the homeless person who scowls when we do not offer up our spare change.

Where do you stand? Is it possible that it is time,to take our own inventory? To bravely look at where we excuse ourselves from The Golden Rule, and with what justification?

As we witness the fall of a celebrity we affirm that excess and a life with no boundaries regularly lead to disaster. We have repeatedly allowed the "messiah" a pass, whether that "messiah" was an actor, wealthy businessman or politician. Why? Is it our lack of boundaries, or our lack or courage to stand up and say enough?

My "enough" came 17 years ago when all I could see in the mirror was someone looking for a reason that she was involved in substance abuse, looking for someone to blame. The desire to blame anyone but myself seared me, it was painful to wrestle with my conscience. Where had I gone? What had I fallen into? Hell. That's where I was, and I was not alone. I was married with 2 young children. Disgusted with myself and my own lack of boundaries and courage I began the climb up and out.

My downfall was small by public standards but it was horrific none the less. I was alone. No friends. My children and my mother were all who remained by my side, or so it felt. Alone was the appropriate place for me. In my solitude I allowed myself to review the multitude of opportunities I passed up to do the right thing. I looked in the mirror and over time found peace in my reflection. It was a painful and lonely process one which I vow to never repeat.

I had no groupies to tag along and make me feel important, I did not get a pass and I believe that was the greatest gift of all.

Let's not excuse or even partake in the entertainment of Charlie's downfall rather, let's pray that he may find the courage required to be there for his children. It is possible, it can happen. If we lose hope in one, we give up hope for all.

This historic time, where religious, political and social structures are being torn apart, is the opening for each of us to rebuild. If we rebuild on the fractured foundation of double standards and entitlement we are doomed to repeat history.

My prayer is that each of us choose to be honest with ourselves and rebuild on the sound foundation of the only rule that we truly need, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."