A little over a month ago, Francesca & I had dinner with her client Vikki. Over dinner; Vikki & I began a conversation on Life, Spirituality, Fate, Coincidence, Success and how it all comes together to create some sort of meaning. I asked Vikki "What was the book that put you on your path?" Having absorbed many books over the last several years I felt ready to discuss whatever she threw my way. She replied 'The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari.' My curious look revealed the fact that not only had I not read it, I had never heard of it. After a brief description of the premise she suggested that I read it, to which I agreed.
The next morning I received a package from my friend Rick who 3 days earlier asked for my work address as he 'had some things to send to me.' Upon opening the package, I discovered a letter from Rick along with a book 'The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari.' Coincidence? or Do I really need to read this?
Work has been very busy lately. New clients are joining and taking care of themselves. We are collecting awards and being interviewed by magazines and publications. There has been little time for reading lately so a vacation to South Beach was just what was needed to relax, recharge & read.
Francesca & I were in South Beach in April of 08' (another needed recharge trip.) On that trip we encountered a guy (unsure of his name/age) but fixated instead on his craft (weaving fallen palm leaves into art) and his 4-legged Labrador sidekick "Lucas". We discovered that this guy found "Lucas" walking alone on the street without ID. After some food, water and attention "Lucas" was more than happy to sit at the side of the man weaving his palm leaves.
January of 09' brought another trip to South Beach. One night walking to dinner I observed the guy again; sitting this time in the park weaving his palms leaves without "Lucas." I couldn't help but wander over to him and say hello and inquire as to "where is the dog you had a few months back?" I discovered that the police took the dog from him since he (Lucas) was without ID and proper documents. I told the guy (let's call him "Artist") that I was sorry for his friends departure. He responded with a friendly "Thank You" and "God Bless" as I said 'goodnight' and walked to my hotel. Over the coming days I noticed that the Artist not only weaved in the park but he in fact was living in the park. Each morning on my coffee walk or run I would observe him in his chair sleeping, reading or gathering his palm leaves. South Beach has plenty of 'homeless' or 'park guests' but there was something about this guy that I couldn't understand. He was gifted, articulate and seemingly lucid. Was I missing something? Is he 'crazy' and I just hadn't seen it? Here was a guy living in a park and yet he seemed happier than most people I know. Upon my return home, I blogged about this and thought about the "artist" often.
This recent trip to South beach was an opportunity for me to read my new book 'The Monk' and enjoy some sunshine. The book was an easy read and very captivating. It's the story of a successful attorney who despite having all of the material toys and conveniences one could want, discovers that the best things in life are free and that true happiness is never bought, it's given.
On Saturday evening we decided to take a cab to Lincoln Rd for dinner. After dinner we decided to walk back 3 miles to our hotel. Sitting on the sidewalk (mid-way to our hotel) was the "artist." My initial reaction was to walk by him but after passing him I decided to turn back and speak to him. Something inside me just screamed "Go Back!" So I did.
Me: How are you tonight?
Artist: Great Thanks. And you?
Me: Good.....You won't remember me but we've spoken before. You had a dog with you at one point, a few blocks away, then a few months later you were in the park without him.
Artist: Yes, that's right. His name was "Lucas" the police took him because I had no License or ID for him. I think about him a lot. He was a good dog.
Me: Yes, that's what you had said. This may sound strange but I wrote a story about you and the dog and I needed to stop by and say hello.
Artist: (Smiling/Almost Laughing) That's great. Very funny actually. (Still weaving without missing a beat while maintaining eye contact during our conversation.)
Me: I'm Frank.
Artist: Hello Frank, My name is David.
Me: This is my wife Francesca (saying Hello)
David: It's a pleasure to meet you!
Me: David are you from Miami originally?
David: No. My family is from California. I lived in Santa Cruz.
Me: What brought you here?
David: Well. (Slightly pausing in his weaving to look up into my eyes and share his story) I was in the Custom Cabinetry Business back in CA. Years back the building that my business was located in burned to the ground. We collected no money from the Insurance Company and I'm still in Litigation with them. I went to the Keys to just get away for a while but it wasn't for me. I returned to CA and felt that there was nothing there for me anymore. So I gave up my things and I walked here.
Me: Walked here? From CA? How long did that take you??
David: About 4 1/2 months.
Me: (Wondering if to believe this, while attempting to do math in my head) Why here? Why South Beach?
David: Frank. About 80% of the people here are on vacation. Everyone is in a great mood, there relaxed and enjoying themselves. It's a great energy. I get to share in that excitement each day and occasionally meet up with someone as yourself who according to you "wrote a story about me." It's a great gift to me each day to live here and I in return get to make a souvenir for someone to bring home that reminds them of their vacation and the fun that they had. It's a wonderful way to live life.
Me: (Standing, nearly speechless, not sure if perhaps it's not me who may be 'crazy') Do you think you'll go into the Cabinetry Business again?
David: (Shaking his head) No! I've had money Frank & I've had no money. The money never brought great happiness to me, even when I made a lot of it. The more I made, the more pressure I felt to make even more the next year. It never ended, if I made less I wasn't happy and If I made more the pressure to do it again instantly appeared.
Me: (I was really at a loss for words at this point. Who was this guy? Yoda? Socrates? Am I imagining all of this? I'm thinking 'dude your homeless and here you are dispensing the wisdom people pay money to learn.' )
Sensing my disconnect between his apparent lack of means and his apparent depth, coherence & eloquence. Dave began to pick up a palm leaf from the floor.
Dave: (Beginning to slash, bend & fold the leaf) Frank. You can be anything you want in life, if it is of your choosing. No matter what people say or think. Just like the 'leaf from the tree that wanted to be a fish.'
"there was a leaf from tree and that's all that you'll be, so they said. But I'm more you'll see than a leaf from a tree, it's fish I wish, in fact to be. In fact it's so as the story will go, that if it's a fish you wish, than a fish you will be."
And when his rhyme was done like a balloon artist to a child; Dave hands me a palm leaf shaped into a fish! I stood there speechless unaware of what to say.
Dave: Frank. I live my life by committing 3 random acts of kindness each day for strangers and I accept and expect nothing in return other than asking them to do the same for others.
Me: David. Thank You. I will pay it forward. I will be sure to see again before I leave. Have a great evening.
Dave: Thanks. God Bless.
The walk back to my hotel I was still unsure of what I had witnessed or encountered? Why? How? What?
The next morning Francesca & I went for Coffee and saw Dave sleeping in the park. I bought coffee for the woman behind us and a gift card for Dave (Coffee, Food, Water could help a guy in the park!) We went for run and still he was fast asleep unaware of our observation of him.
Later that day I finished 'The Monk' and began to realize that Dave is the 'Living Manifestation of the Monk.' I had earlier entertained thoughts of giving Dave the book but I recognized HE IS THE BOOK!
On Sunday evening (our final evening) we were walking back to the hotel and sitting in his chair doing his thing was Dave.
Me: Hi Dave. How are you tonight?
Dave: Hey Man. I'm great.
Me: I've been committing my Random Acts of Kindness and I wanted to give you a small gift to thank you for the 'Fish' last night. (I present him with the Gift Card.)
Dave: Thank you very much. I'm glad I bumped into you. I have a question of you.
Right here I'm thinking. "OK. This is it. Here is where he's giving me the
proof that he's a nut or something. Like he's going to tell me that he wants to
bring me to his planet 'K-Pax' or something."
Dave: I was wondering if I could read the story your wrote about me?
Me: (Wondering how?) Sure. I guess.
Dave: Would it be alright if I gave you my email address and you could send it to me?
Me: (Email???) Uh. Yea. Fran let me have a pen from your pocket book.
Francesca: I don't have a pen!
Dave: I do! (reaching in his bag.)
Writing on a palm leaf he proceeds to give me his GMAIL Address. Then turning over the leaf to write on the other side he begins to write again.
Dave: I'll give you my Facebook address also!
At this point I recognize that he's not homeless. He chooses to simply live in the park. This is a guy who lives the life he wants, despite the fact that society (and myself) for that matter choose not to walk or sleep in his shoes. Who really knows what road his life has traveled? What's known is that I'm certain he's steering his ship tonight!
Me: David. You & I will cross paths again in this lifetime of that I'm certain. When we do, I'll be sure to say hello.
David: I look forward to it.
Me: Have a great evening. I'll send you the story.
David: Thanks. God bless.
The next morning Francesca & I walked for coffee with Dave sleeping in the park. We passed him going out on our run. On the final trip through the park on the way back to our hotel, he was gone. To where? I have no idea....
I returned home and immediately went to verify his Facebook address "Yep, there he was." I copied his story for him and sent him the email. Who knows what's going on with him? It doesn't really matter. What I'm certain of is that I sensed on an 'Instinctive level' something that those operating on an 'Impression level' never would have. Dave stopped making a living and instead made a life. God Bless.