Sidewalk Ghosts / A Tribute to Laughter and Light

It’s hard for me to put in words the impact of this encounter, and even though our conversation was struggled, there was a bond. A theme was forming as more and more diverse people allowed me the privilege of interviewing them. An invisible statement that said, we are in this world together, no matter where we come from.

I’m back, took eleven days off to ponder the relevance of publishing daily works. A little over a week of flashing back to the encounters of year one and the following seven years of growing to this current incarnation of Sidewalk Ghosts. The initial response to the review and rewriting of the first twenty-nine days of this experience has been uplifting and revealing. A finding that I now see after eleven days of not publishing content has proven a loss of momentum. A test I had to do, as I leaned into the analytical side of my left/right brain argument. An internal debate brought on from listening too intently to the opinions of Google articles suggesting the downfall of daily blog posting. Advise that for the last week has not settled well with me, for in honoring the purpose and history of this project, I must stand true to it’s mission, that being; to open a daily booster shot to our seeing each other as the unique and valuable human beings we are.

So friends thanks for your trust in following me, I’m back. In full stride bringing you daily writings. Some reviewed and others new, but in all, the same call is extended. A moment to fall away from the world around us in taking pause to look into the lives, words and wisdom of others, and perhaps as we do, to kindle and reignite the mission of compassion we began on a September day in 2011.

It seems appropriate to compare my location today to the story below. An alignment that has struck me as, in Salt Lake City Utah on business, I sit in the lobby of a Sheraton hotel. Not registered as a guest, but rather crashing the scene for their free WiFi and Starbuck’s. I so love the Vanilla Bean Frappuccino, a caffeine free delight sure to keep me up much later than I wish. But what the heck, got to live on the wild side sometimes (yea, Rich, your a regular rebel).

Again I am at a crossroads similar to those that drove me to the inception of the very first entries of Sidewalk Ghosts. For on October 9th, 2011 I too was sitting in a hotel lobby asking myself a similar set of questions. Namely, what is the voice driving me forward to resume and continue this journey, and added to that, after now having over eight years behind me, is it possible to fire us up again.

My belief, simply, a resounding yes! and with your support, I think we can grow bigger than ever.

With that I return in full force and ask you to rejoin me in growing what we are doing: Looking beyond the negative chatter and polarization this decade is hammering us with. Merely suggesting if there is another voice of influence we might be overlooking. A spirit within that if nurtured has limitless yield in bettering the way we view others and treat ourselves.

It was October 9, 2011 as I sat in the lobby of Hilton Hawaiian Village, A day that marked the official end to the workshop I’d been teaching all that week. It had been an amazing journey working with great people at JPAC, many of whom I am still proud to call true friends. In it a week of almost all-nighters managing a vigorous teaching schedule that allowed little regular hour time to Sidewalk Ghosts. A timeline that pushed me to the wee hours in meeting strangers and authoring stories. Yet on that day, I had been gifted with a full nights sleep, and post the days teaching, I was energized and ready to meet a new friend before the sun sat. However, there was one thing I was learning, if I was not in the right place, at the right time and more importantly, ignored listening to the small voice inside me that I was beginning to trust, no pictures could be taken. Sounds strange, but I’m telling you, there was something greater than myself directing me, and as I began my quest to find a friend that early evening, my mind was on timeline rather than the spirit of what I was doing. Needless to say, I ended up writing my article at 1:45am the following morning. One more late night logged, a lesson still being taught to me.

The day was filled with rejection upon rejection. Countless people did I approach, some nicely brushed me off, while others took the opportunity to be, how can I put it compassionately? Tell me where the sun does not shine. Looking back, I can now say it was all part of the training I was receiving that week, and the foundational lessons I continue share throughout this chapter of Sidewalk Ghosts. A suggestion that we all can clave to as we take pause to purely love and look for the human within each of us.

The horizon turned black as the night fell dark. No success had I experienced in my reach out, and to be fully transparent, I was burnt out. Needed a break from the rejection as the more I extended myself the more forced my efforts became; and not wanting to radiate the desperation I was feeling, I shifted gears. Accepted a break to dine with one of my new photographer friends from JPAC. Aaron, a very cool Air Force man, who that night had stepped up to be my city guide. Talent would be an understatement in explaining Aaron’s photographic ability. Brave and in-tune with light he had a gift to see past the expected. I was in good company.

I let go, allowed Aaron to take the lead as he escorted me to highly trafficked areas. Telling me there will be much to photograph he made a point that was far from exaggeration. Where he took me was nothing short of sensory overload as we passed through upper-end tourist districts as well as the darker streets of town.

It was a visual and audio feast to the fullest. Hard to take in, the sounds cluttered my head as I studied countless bodies and faces that whirled around us.

“Who do I approach? Will they accept me? How will I photograph them?”

Up to two French men we strolled, who as we got closer I realized were checking out the local sex workers. Yes, there was something very dark about them, but after my experience of meeting Nathan only days earlier, I had come to the place where I did my best to place no judgment on those around me. They did accept me and we did briefly chat, but the language barrier was far too deep to explain why I wanted to take their photo, let alone interview them. Plus, I guessed, perhaps they did not want to be documented in their current activities. So, as they declined, the little voice inside me agreed, and to be completely honest, I was somewhat relived. Maybe I was deceived by the colorful tee shirts they were wearing and not directed to them by the spirit I was striving to listen to?

We walked for another ten minutes when again I felt the pull as we approached a couple of travelers walking only three or four steps in front of us. Rolling luggage in tow, I extended a friendly head nod as we passed them. But it would not let go. The internal intercom inside my head kept paging, “they are your new friends.”

In a flash, I knew that was the moment, and with my usual hello’s, we looped back to invite them to Sidewalk Ghosts.

Again there was a language barrier, although this time, it carried a feeling of joy as under a mix of Japanese and English they introduced themselves as Akiko and Sayaka.

After a long day of friend meeting failure, Akiko and Sayaka were a breath of fresh air. They were full of peace, laughter and hope. Both Aaron and I found ourselves smitten by the warmth they admitted, who only in Hawaii for only a few days, were celebrating the birthday of Akiko’s father.

It’s hard for me to put in words the impact of this encounter, and even though our conversation was struggled, there was a bond. A theme was forming as more and more diverse people allowed me the privilege of interviewing them. An invisible statement that said, we are in this world together, no matter where we come from.

The time was late, but it did not matter as we carefully listened to each other. It was apparent our language barrier was extreme and not wanting to misinterpret our conversation, we spoke in small phrases. A communication that was beyond interpretable words we were having, within it an understanding of the human bond we shared was evident. One statement stood strong as with reflective pause, Akiko gave us these words of Japanese wisdom: “Laughter Brings Happiness.”

Simple and to the point the wisdom was, and after going through a day where I was becoming resentful of the many rejections I had encountered, I too reflected.

Thank you Akiko, through you I was again saved.

Talk tomorrow my good friends,


Readers, if you are returning, so nice to be with you again. If you are new, looking forward to getting to know you.

To all: please comment, like, and forward. Every engagement goes a long way toward connecting us; as together, we grow a movement that betters the way we view and treat one another.