Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Connecting the Dots

“You are the reason the sun came up today. Believe it.”

Mike Dooley

There are times when I simply cannot connect the dots.

As a kid I used to love the “connect the dot” games I’d find in the “Highlights” magazine at the doctor’s office. I would try to imagine what the final picture would be, but in most instances the outcome never completely matched what I had initially envisioned. Somewhere though, around three quarters of the way through the numbers, I could feel a delicious kind of anticipation as the image would magically emerge from the connection of all those dots.

I often feel like my life is about connecting the dots. I love to apply meaning to the physical experiences of this life, to conjure up hope, passion or love from what to others, may appear to be nothing more than a random series of events. Sure, a sunset is just a sunset. But if I breathe deeply beneath the glory of her reds, oranges and yellows, I feel joy, peace and surrender. What to some may be the end of the day is for me a time to ponder the greatness of the sky, the smallness of me and the peace that comes from feeling both powerful and humbled beneath the tapestry of approaching night’s sky. You see? Nothing really has meaning until we give it meaning.

I’m at one of those times I simply can’t connect the dots. I intentionally added two days to a work-related trip, two days for me to refuel, refresh and re-me. I love the travel, the speaking and the time with our girls and volunteers, but have learned over the years that Molly-time is critical to my emotional, mental and physical health.

So on one of my recent “re-me” times…I met two people who, without knowing, are permanently tattooed on the neurons of my brain. I can close my eyes and get a strong visual picture of them. I haven’t yet figured out how their stories will be connected. I’ve yet to connect the dots of our shared experience. And so I invite you to come along. My guess is by this essay’s end, I’ll have figured out how Amelia and Vincent are connected.

The story starts with my walking to the Starbucks in Atlantic Beach, Florida. I had just finished my morning presentation and was looking to take in the sun, the ocean air and enjoy a strong cup of the Starbucks Joe.

I ordered my coffee at an outside window, took a seat outside and proceeded to just enjoy the moment, when I see her out of the corner of my eye. A beautiful, vibrant and alive young woman rolls up in her wheelchair. Her strawberry blonde hair accentuates a youthful and open, radiant face to which I am immediately attracted. I wanted to know her story. I wanted to understand her joy. I wanted to understand her peace.

Seconds later, a homeless man begins begging two men for a few dollars. “I just wanna call my mama,” he pleads. “Could I have just a couple of dollars?” The men ignore him.

I stand up and walk to him. “Here,” I said. “Take this.” I hand him a five dollar bill.

He thanks me profusely…for several seconds he showers me with his gratitude. “Miss, I see you have a phone. Could I use it? Can I just use your phone to call my mama? I want her to know that I’m okay.”

I hesitate. I take a few deep breaths. “What’s her number? I’ll type it for you.”

He gives me her number. I type it into my phone. I hand him the phone.

“Mama!” he shouts out gleefully. He proceeds to talk with his mother. I tried my best to give him his privacy and so at this point, the only chair remaining on the Starbucks outside deck is a chair at Amelia’s table. I ask her, “May I sit here?”

She says yes. I sit. The homeless man continues to talk to his mom; tears are streaming down his face. I sit quietly with Amelia. We are both struck by the oddity of this particular moment. The homeless man then proceeds to sit at the last chair available, of course, at the table with me and Amelia.

Amelia and I are silent, as he wraps up his conversation. After saying his final farewells, he hands the phone to me and begs me to tell his “mama” that he is okay; to tell her that her son Vincent is okay.

I talk with her for about a minute. She doesn’t want to talk. She’s heard it so many times before. We hang up.

And there the three of us sit: Amelia, Vincent and me. The silence was painful at first. I wasn’t sure what to do with this opportunity. What do I say? Surely there is something I am to gain by being here. These circumstances are too odd to be random. So I turn to Vincent. “Tell me about you.”

The three of us chatted for fifteen minutes, each sharing our stories. Vincent is an alcoholic. He has seizures when he doesn’t drink. He can’t lie and shared with us that the first thing he planned to do with the five dollars I gave him, was go to the liquor store. He has two children. He is 46. He misses his mother’s love like any son. He misses his children, like any father. He is one of 9 children. His mother is in her 70’s. He hasn’t been able to get his act together and frankly wonders if it is even worth it at this point. “I just want to sleep,” he kept saying. “All I need is a hotel room and some sleep.” Vincent is drunk, homeless, tired and so sad about the path upon which he now walks.

Amelia is 25. She currently works at a rehab center for people who have disabilities or become disabled. Her job is to help secure the needed resources for people with disabilities so they can become thriving, independent community members. She ended up in her chair at age 15, after a botched scoliosis surgery. She was walking one day and the next she wasn’t. She shared with me and Vincent that she could either accept her situation and deal with it, or she could be angry about it. She chose to accept her situation and find joy in her circumstances. Of all the things she does in her work, helping her clients find joy is her first priority and a gift she was given by others that she, in turn, shares with them.

I shared with Vincent and Amelia that I was in recovery for alcoholism. That I had once been lost, confused and unsure too…but on July 7, 1993 I had a moment of clarity when I knew that I needed to get help. Three years later, after getting a lot of my own life in order, I started a program for girls to help them see how powerful, beautiful and wonderful they really are, just as they are..

Vincent walked away. He looked back over his shoulder several times. I walked back to my hotel and Amelia returned a few emails.

As I write to you, I want so desperately to connect the dots…to unequivocally state the reason Amelia, Vincent and I met. But as hard as I try, I can’t find it. There seems to be too much randomness to this experience--the inequity of joy. The ability for some to see through the pain of their story to the joy that rests on the other side and the inability of others. How unfair it seems that Amelia and I, are able to see the challenges in our lives as the root of all upward growth, the cornerstone of our personal evolution.

And Vincent, who still wanders the streets of Atlantic Beach, unknowing and unaware that the first step to beating his addiction is a drastic change in his perception; a willingness to see how powerless he really is, and to not just seek help, but let others help him.

Maybe the connection for this story is the lack of one. The inability to explain why this is, or maybe it’s too early to connect the dots. There are too few of them. The image is not yet ready to be revealed…

BAM. I’ve got it! As I write I realize that I’ve landed on the connection at this moment and right before your very eyes.

Whether I see Vincent again, in this lifetime or not, Amelia and I are two of the dots in the “connect-the dots” experience of Vincent’s life. So, too will be the others, the future “dots”, who when connected to me, Amelia and each other, over time and in the right order, will reveal the image of Vincent I see now and that that will be revealed to him when enough dots show up and are connected. I can with only a few dots see what Vincent could be, will be and is (not just in physical form yet), but it may take many more dots for HIM to see! (Just as it happened for me. Who knows? How will Vincent emerge in a new image I'm creating now for me, with my life?)

We never know the power of our influence. You could be the one final dot in the “connect-the-dot” game of someone’s transformation.

Nothing ever happens by coincidence…at least not in my reality. Your reading this could be a dot in your “connect-the-dots” life’s story. What do you think???!!!!


  1. *sigh* Gorgeous.

    Another great thing about life is that if you finish a picture and feel disappointed, you can start connecting dots to a new one. And yet your counting skills are so much better...

    Thanks for this beautiful share.

  2. What a moment, Molly. Not knowing where Vincent is today may just leave you with hope ~ that perhaps he is sharing his "how I came about getting the help I needed" story with others by starting this way... "Well, one day I was sitting in this place with two women, who were like angels who had a message for me...."

    Beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing it.

    ~Mandy in VT

  3. Thank you Molly. You just reminded me again of how important it is to smile and be kind to everyone I see...after all, I could be their last dot.
    - Nadine in Atlanta

  4. I was going to suggest that it's possible YOU are the dot to connect them. The three of you, as with almost everyone, have a shared experience of overcoming something or struggling with something greater than themselves. I would imagine your short discussion will be something that will stick with them as it did you and perhaps be that glimmer of "I can do this" that gets them through the next part of life.
    As I read this I couldn't help but think of the connections to how many different and unique dots being involved with this program has given me.
    As always, Thank you Molly.

  5. Maybe it isn't Vincent's picture, or Amelia's, but *yours* that these dots connect ... maybe they were an experience that allows you to see yourself and your story more fully, with continuing perspective, self-evaluation or insight. Maybe they were the context for growth you're yet discovering.