Saturday, November 04, 2006

Revelations from BESLA - St. Kitts

In the name of God,
stop a moment,
cease your work,
look around you.
Leo Tolstoy (Russian novelist)


Greetings from the beautiful, tranquil paradise known as St. Kitts! This entry arrived via the warm, Caribbean tradewinds. Those same tradewinds beckoned me to wrap up four days of networking with a retreat to this hammock. I'm now back in the crisp air synonymous with autumn in New York City. Yet, I offer you this entry as it was, if only to hold onto my tropical, Ting-flavored memories for just a tad longer. Yeah mon!

I went to St. Kitts for the annual gathering of Black Entertainment & Sports Lawyers (www.BESLA.org). BESLA brings together some of the best and brightest legal minds in the world for a week of education, networking, deal-making, scholarship granting and parties where the walls sweat. As I set out to grade my conference activities, I noticed a rather large, lime green lizard scurrying up the tree supporting my hammock. Fear not... I'm a city boy. Lizards.. ok. Mouse? No!

My personal BESLA goal was to reduce the ranks of the Nods. You know the Nods, don't you? They're the people we see event after event. With familiarity comes the requisite greeting -- you shoot them a warm smile and a "what's up" head nod and keep it moving. Having declared war on this socially acceptable, but fruitless activity, I was pleased to issue myself a decent B+ (with room for improvement). With the lizard out of sight, I headed to my hammock, just in time to see a mass of clouds forming in dramatic fashion just off the horizon. Now, I don't want you thinking That Johnson Boy suffers from Moses-envy, but every now and then I recognize signs from heaven. Something about those clouds made me think this might be one of those signs. And with that, I grabbed my mp3 player, journal, pen and camera and settled in to hear what answers might be blowin' in the Caribbean wind.

As I reclined, I pressed play and listened to the soothing instrumental jazz offering of Collaboration's "Because Of You." If I didn't know better, one would think they recorded it with St. Kitts in mind. It's really that peaceful.

I met some pretty amazing people at BESLA. I met the future winner of the Iron Man Triathalon and guess what... she's definitely not a man. I met a ready for TV judge from the Lone Star state, an army of future lawyers from The U (Howard University), and the legal eagle behind Sears' quest to copyright the entire world. In the spirit of Butch Lewis, the conference was full of amazing dots just waiting to be connected. And because I had invested the time, my dots had names, faces, families, dreams and ambitions.

My attention then shifted to the once distant clouds that were now clustered before me. Propelled by the jet stream, the clouds appeared to transform with every passing minute. They took on large cumulonimbus shapes, cottonball white at first and later infused with the golden-orange glow of the setting sun. Perhaps for some on the Isle of St. Kitts, the clouds signaled rain. But I suspect most people never saw the clouds.

I watched in awe at what some might deem plain ol' clouds. From my vantage point, I compared the clouds to Moses' burning bush. So beautiful and awesome was this heavenly display; and yet the only thing truly unique here was that I took the time to experience this offering.

As I snapped countless pictures, I realized that God provides us with such beauty every second of every single day. He provides this beauty regardless of whether we see it, acknowledge it or even appreciate it. He bestows His beauty upon billions of people every second of every day; and yet, I can't help but sense that it pleased Him to know that someone appreciated His idea of a picture perfect day. Today, that someone was me, and the mere possibility that my appreciation would bring Him joy resonated deep within my spirit.

So, what does all this mean to you, the world changers that make up this community? What message do I have for you who work hard, dream big, and aspire to make a profound impact on the world? You know I was hoping you'd ask that question!

To my writers - you who dream of achieving best-seller status and an audience with Lady O of Harpo - by all means prepare to saturate the world with your literary gift. But, my message of hope from St. Kitts is that you experience God-like appreciation upon seeing one person deeply immersed in your words. May you see every fixed pupil and raised eyebrow, right down to them tracing their fingers along the ink-laden pages of the very book that contains your literary expressions. May you appreciate how meaningful your words have been to their lives.

To those of you like my music creators -- you who dream of #1 hits and performing before millions of adoring fans. My St. Kitts wish for you is that you witness one person, eyes closed shut, lost in the healing melody of your artistry. Know that their smiles and tears confirm that you've sang life into their story, their joy, pain, heartache and desires and inspirations. It took great courage to expose your soul within your songs. You'll need even more courage to truly receive a word of gratitude from those profoundly affected by your offering. Shall I sing "Be A Lion" from the musical, The Wiz? Works for me every time!

To those of you like my BESLA veterans -- overflowing with a wealth of wisdom and insight perfect for guiding and nurturing young minds -- may you take a moment to look into the eyes of your mentee and see just how extremely grateful they are for your mentorship. I guess you could wait a few years and see how they blossom. But, to wait would mean missing the overwhelming gratitude they feel towards you for your belief and investment in them just as they are/right where they are today. Remember back... was there ever a better feeling than someone believing and investing in a young, hungry, but unproven you? Your Honor, the defense rest.

To my career changers -- folks like the young lady I met at a recent Kelly Price Listening Party - folks bold enough to respond to this stranger's question of "what do you really want to do," I applaud you. Not only did you say what you wanted, but you followed-up as promised. May your efforts be revitalized in knowing that it only takes one (1) person to say yes to your new career and that one person is... you. I suspect that your very own personalized, co-signed in agreement "yes" is right around the career corner!

And lastly, to all of my driven perfectionists like my good friend, brother and saxophonist extraordinaire, Tracey "TC" Cutler. You know who you are. Like him, you're methodical in your approach and uber-meticulous concerning your craft. And like him, these traits combine to foster a self-depreciation of your amazing gifts and talents. Boy, do I have a special wish for you!

My wish for you is a lazy day on the beautiful island of St. Kitts. May you nestle into the belly of a woven hammock, turn off your critical ear, press play and listen as you and your Collaboration band mates weave your indelible magic on a Yusef Chisholm composition. In fact, don't even bother to listen. Feel the music and let it scatter your perfectionist traits along the Caribbean tradewinds. Only then will you appreciate how much of your spirit you imparted in every note, and just how much of a blessing your talents and gifts are to the universe. And perhaps like me, you'll flip Yusef's song title into a chorus of praise, then look to the cloud-filled heavens and proclaim over and over again... "Because of You... Because of You... Because of You."

Yeah mon, St. Kitts was heavenly. BESLA? Divine. God? Awesome! And should anyone inquire... who tink up all dis stuff?, you tell 'em That Johnson Boy, that's who!


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