Spiritual Lessons Are Everywhere, Part Two

My copy of As Long as It Takes has disappeared so I can’t supply the quote that I used from p. 103. To continue with the rest of the lecture …

My encounter with Susan Butcher was evidence of the second lesson, as well: Follow your passion and it will lead you to wonderful places. She certainly did, and so did Captain Pinkney.

Years passed after that evening at the Connecticut Forum. The Amistad made its successful voyages. Captain Pinkney retired and he and his wife settled in Connecticut. Then one evening a couple of months ago I met him again at a book signing for As Long as It Takes, his account of his trip around the world. He told a marvelous story that demonstrated the contagious nature of following one’s passion. As he was raising money to buy a boat, he attended a reunion at his elementary school. I didn’t realize elementary schools had reunions, but this one did.

In any event, he told the school principal about his plan to write to his grandchildren during his voyage and post the letters from the various ports that he visited. She told the curriculum coordinator for the Chicago public schools and pretty soon Captain Pinkney was corresponding with the 5,000 seventh graders in the school system through daily radio broadcasts and regular dispatches of letters and video tape. He wound up having to raise more money and to buy a larger boat to hold the extra equipment, but the students flourished during the project. They kept him somewhat more grounded during those seemingly endless days when his boat was becalmed. His solo trip around the world and his subsequent work with the Amistad have led him to become an advocate of using hands-on experiences to teach children math, science, geography, history, social studies, political science and so forth.

He followed his dream – a much more dramatic one than mine, but I am certain that mine is just as satisfying. That night all those years ago at the Connecticut Forum led me to begin meditating seriously – which led me here to the Church of the Infinite Spirit where I have met my earthly guides – Mary Anne, Allen, Michael David and all of you. I can’t wait to see where my journey will take me next!

The corollary to these lessons: Be prepared to have your assumptions challenged and to have your views change. Captain Pinkney said that the most frightening experience of his voyage was not the near-collision with a Chinese fishing trawler, nor was it the capsizing of his vessel, named Commitment. It was sailing into Cape Town, South Africa, while F.W. deKlerk was still in power. In one of those events that are not coincidences, Captain Pinkney arrived in South Africa just a few months after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. The captain said he found a warm welcome, not just from the country’s black and “colored” populations, but from the whites at the yacht club where he docked while Commitment underwent repairs. One of the most helpful people proved to be an Afrikaner minister whose official position would deny blacks and people of color any political rights but who offered African American Captain Pinkney moral and financial support. Lesson: Things are not always what they seem.

At that point I read lessons one, three, four, eight and ten. And I concluded: So remember, you can find the lessons everywhere and if you follow your passion, it will lead you to wonderful places.

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