You could hear a pin drop. Eighty teenagers on bleachers spread out over the length of the gymnasium, and all you could hear was one voice. The voice of a wise old man in a young man's body. A man who had traveled across the country to be with them. To connect. To show how deeply he relates and cares for them. And to deliver a message. Not for money. Not for recognition. Not for adulation. He came to stand before them, living proof, to show them it's OK. That they matter. That their lives matter. To say, no matter what you've been through, you have a choice. Beginning right now, this minute, you can choose to no longer play the role of a victim. A victim of abuse. Abandonment. Neglect. The system. Instead, you can choose to BE YOU. To live from your true core. To live your truth. In other words, "Put the victim to bed and wake the HERO up instead." And join a community of empowered youth to fight this abuse and neglect in your own life. To be nourished. And to nourish the possibilities for your life moving forward.
Wesley Chapman had never met these children before. But he knew each and every one of them. He once was each and every one of them. Wes grew up in foster care. But not before he was brutalized and tortured in his own home from birth to age six when his mother abandoned him, his father already long gone. Over the next ten years, Wes battled the effects of this abuse to the brink of death. His body was nearly destroyed by massive medications intended to manage his health and help him cope, but only managed to nearly destroy his body. But along the way, Wes got "lucky." He had an "angel" enter his life when his mother chose to exit. An angel he calls "Mom" to this day. An angel who helped Wes fight his demons.
Wes had an epiphany on what could have been his deathbed at age 16. One that led to the restoration of his health and massive success as an entrepreneur. He took control of his life. He told his doctors to "shove it." He stopped taking the twenty-five medications that were intended to manage his health and help him cope, but were only managing to destroy his body. What followed was material success beyond wildest dreams. But that's not what brought Wes to Bethany Children's Home in Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania this week. Wes isn't living the life of that entrepreneur now. Wes had another epiphany years after his first that reset his trajectory. He has embarked on a new journey. His mission resonates so clearly with mine, I can barely hear the distinctions despite the different audience. We are, each of us, born for a purpose. Addressing this truth with youth or adults, the message is the same.
On Sunday, January 17, my cell phone lit up with a call from my daughter, Lauren, in California.
"Dad! I just listened to an amazing podcast on Bulletproof Radio. Dave Asprey interviewed Wes Chapman. The children at Bethany have to hear Wes's story. From him. In person. I emailed him and he replied within an hour to say "Yes!" He just needs transportation and a place to stay. Nothing fancy. He'll sleep on a couch. If you're good with that, I'll contact Bethany to see if we can make this happen!"
Lauren's passion for people runs deep. She is a healer at heart, and her path led to Bethany three years ago when she moved back to the east coast. For two years, she cared for a group of 16 to 18 year old girls in her cottage. During the school year, she arrived before they came home from school, and left after they went to bed. It was challenging work. Work that takes all of you. All of your energy. All of your skills. Work that takes all of your heart and deposits its love to linger long after you're gone. Long after you've returned to California to resume that life.
Ours and Bethany's answer to Lauren's request was an immediate and resounding "Yes!" My wife, Sarah, and I were excited to have Wes stay with us, making him feel at home and getting him to and from the airport and Bethany. That "yes" in January turned into a whirlwind of activity this past week. Lauren flew in. Wes arrived. The amazing staff at Bethany took excellent care of myriad details. And on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, lives changed. And not just the children's. Wes impacted every soul he touched that day. And over the course of the three days he was in our home, he had a profound impact on our family as well. We are connected now to A Human Project, Wes's outreach to empower youth to succeed, regardless of their surroundings or environmental conditions. And we are connected to Wes and his amazing spirit.
Lauren's "chance" encounter with the Bulletproof podcast. It's resonance with Bethany. It's perfect timing with my career change a week earlier. I couldn't have imagined this course of events when I conceived of this blog in December to communicate the "Be Yourself" message. I couldn't have known of its alignment with Wes and his mission. But I know it is all connected. And that these are not mere coincidences. That every dot along the way was necessary to bring the events last week to pass for a purpose that is still unfolding. Looking back, they are connected dots. Looking forward, they are steps along a hidden path. A path we are tasked to sweep clean one waypoint at a time. A path that emerges as we act. And act we must, to clear the way forward. In the words of my dear friend, Jane Garis, from my post, Jane's Touch,
“Carl, put your blog out there now! Someone needs to hear this. You don’t know who, but someone’s life is waiting to be affected, changed, perhaps even saved, because you shared your heart with them.”
I just didn't know then, that that life would be my own.