There is no other way to start today’s entry other than just getting to the point. But for the sake of theatrics, I’ll give you a brief set up of the stage, let’s just call it, “Scene One: The afternoon walk with my daughter.” Destination: 7-Eleven for Slurpee madness. “It’s only 4-ish, we have plenty of time to run down the sugar.”
In the door and toward frozen beverage heaven we head, where it’s time for me to be enrolled in Frozen Beverage 101– mastering the flavor blend, taught by non other than daughter Radstone. It never ceases to amaze me of the art involved in a child preparing a Slurpee. Must have the right cup size, a full seal on the cap and a full range of elbow movement for correct flow control of the lever pull.
Her preparation is masterful, and with the precision of a seasoned chemist she mixes her secret blend. It’s a blur to me as I try to take notes, Cherry, Cola, Mango, ?, ?, ? I get what I can, but in the end I ultimately give in, “Kiddo, next time I order a Slurpee, will you mix it for me?”
As always, my camera-rig is with me, so when we exchange a set of hellos with a parking lot stranger, the obvious progressing of rapport is to extend a 365 invite. Little do I know I am setting the ball rolling for a ninety-minute experience, an experience that teaches me the power of friendship and the blessings that come from true acts of selflessness.
Say “hello” to new father, Manu, who right off the bat tells me, “’When someone says ‘hi,’ say ‘hi’ back to them.’”
Manu talks of his childhood: “I traveled a lot as a kid, most of the states, camping with my mother. People are different out of Los Angele; in general they are more open and friendly. I learned from that and we need to be the same.”
From this, and pulling from his life experience, Manu gives us three calls to action:
1) Be nice to other people.
2) Respond kindly to the world around you.
3) Love each other.
Manu asks, “Can I take a photo with my son?”
“Absolutely,” I respond.
To the Jeep Manu goes, and a minute later is standing in front of me with the most beautiful newborn. Takes me back to the days of my daughter’s infancy, reminding me to love every moment of every day.
We take a few photos and being respectful to Manu’s family, who have been patiently waiting through our chat, I keep it brief and end our interview with, “If you know anyone who would be willing to interview for 365, have them call me?”
Final handshakes are exchanged and off to our lives we go.
“That’s it? Where is this ninety-minute experience of powerful friendship and the true acts of selflessness?”
Scene Two: The plot thickens with “The Ballad of Mr. Cleve.”
I’m at home, playing with my daughter as she downs her last sips of Slurpee nirvana. The phone rings, “Hi friend, is it too late to be photographed?”
The voice is energetic, unknown to me, and catches me totally off-guard.
“I’m sorry, tell me you name?” I inquire.
“Are you still taking pictures for 365? You just interviewed my friend Manu.”
In the blink of an eye it all makes sense. When I left Manu, I said, “Pass it on, and if you know anyone that has a story to tell, give them my number?”
At first, my mind tells me to schedule a different day to photograph this new friend, but my instinct overrules, “Meet him now. He’ll finish today’s story.”
We agree on a meeting place and fifteen minutes later I am speaking with yet another friend, Cleve, a great dude with a giant story. I am thankful I listened to my inner voice.
At first we are a little rushed in our conversation, prompting me to quickly throw my first question.
“What words of council do you have for the world?”
“Great question,” Cleve replies, “You caught me at the right time to ask it. It has to do with something I’m working on at the moment.”
Manu is with us and in a shared nod, Cleve continues, “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, he will feed himself for a lifetime. I think its scripture or something.”
I talked earlier of the powerful friendship and the true acts of selflessness. Here we go!
It would be unethical for me to reveal a few confidences that I promise to Manu and Cleve, and I ask you not to try to figure out any mysteries as to their histories, but this I can tell you. Manu and Cleve have paid their dues and have overcome things that ruin many a man. Yet in their trials they have found a greater wisdom; wisdom gleaned from years of experience– experiences that have refined them into true advocates for the betterment of people outside of their sphere.
I could tell you what they do for a living, but again, it is not relevant. Rather, I would like to focus on what they are doing for each other and the world around them.
Cleve talks of his place in society: “My goal now is to help as many people help themselves as possible.”
Cleve puts his talk where his money, health and actions are.
Out of Manu’s mouth, “Cleve has helped me so much. We used to be in business together. But even though we did not continue to work together, we remain friends. I credit him with helping me to overcome my obstacles.”
From what I understand, both Cleve and Manu share a somewhat rough history, a history that is most obviously behind them now.
Cleve talks of the process of rehabilitation and responsibility, linking it to his earlier fishing clause.
My life is dedicated to giving people a second chance at a responsible life. From ex-convicts to recovering addicts to whatever, it does not matter; I want to help them.
“How?” You may ask.
For one thing, Cleve has set up programs within his business to accept those who are willing to do the work in being responsible. He understands the system and the characters of those using it for their betterment vs. those who are simply using it.
“I’m here to help those who want to help themselves,” Cleve expresses.
And you know what? I completely believe him.
I ask both Cleve and Manu of their ambitions for the future.
First, “We all survive 2012.” We all smile at this one.
But more importantly, “I want to be able to spend time with my Godson.” He is speaking of Manu’s boy.
One other note about Cleve’s character. He tells me, “I had a friend who was in need of a liver transplant. I was screened to donate him part of my liver, but by the time I was approved, he no longer could accept from a live donor. My friend is doing well now, so I plan to go through with donating it to someone else.”
It is evident as to the friendship and desire to do good that radiate from both Manu and Cleve.
In the words of Manu as he expresses his personal wishes for the days ahead, “I just want to do my best to lead by example.”
Gentlemen, thanks for your example.