Out on the ocean sailing away,
I can hardly wait,
To see you come of age,
But I guess we'll both,
Just have to be patient,
Yes it's a long way to go,
But in the meantime,
Before you cross the street,
Take my hand,
Life is just what happens to you,
While your busy making other plans,
- John Lennon
He is my baby brother and I love him...we all do. As John Lennons sings in this video about his own son, Shawn is our "Beautiful Boy."
Shawn, and his wife Amy, have just sold their cars, put their possessions in storage, popped everything else in four duffel bags, and flown to St. Martins where they will join a family they will serve...as Captain and a crew of one (God bless you Amy)...for the next year sailing on a high seas voyage around-the-world.
Shawn has always been a sailor. Amy is learning to love his world. Together they will chart new courses, explore new landscapes, and plumb new depths of inner courage, strength, patience, and grace. We love them.
Did I say we love our little brother?
Last weekend five of my seven siblings and I gathered in Colorado for our mom's 75th birthday. Shawn and Amy flew in from Maine. We were there for mom, but it was never far from thought that within two weeks our little brother, and his wife, would sail away from the safety of our reach and off beyond the horizon.
As I said, I have seven brothers and sisters...I have learned more about myself, and life in general, from them than from any other seven people in the world...besides my mother and children. Each one is a gift. I can't imagine my life without any one of them.
But tonight I am thinking about this youngest...biggest...brother.
Shawn, and his sister, Fawn, are twins. They were born my last year of high school. When dad passed on, just before they were three, they were not just siblings, they became my "babies," too. Thank goodness mom was so generous in sharing. That meant, among many other things, that, just as I know feel with my own children, I loved spending time with them...still do!
This was the case about ten years ago when I was on a business trip to Boston. I was there for a large meeting and after landing at Logan airoport, I hailed a taxi, lifted my carryon into the backseat and leaned back for an uneventful ride through the city and along the Charles River. As we came up out of the tunnel my cell phone rang. It was Shawn. He and I checked in with one another often, so it was no surprise that he was calling. "Hey, where are you?" he asked. I told him I had just landed in Boston, and was on my way to my hotel. He told me that he had just sailed into Boston harbor after 14 days on the sea with a group of high school students on an Outward Bound trip he was leading. We decided to meet for dinner near my office in the next hour.
As I waited for him in the lobby of the busy restaurant, I noticed a large homeless man in dirty coveralls and long dread-locked hair coming through the door. "Hmm," I thought, "I wonder if the restaurant will seat him?" As he got closer, I realized that it was my brother. Just off the boat meant...just off the boat. He looked like he smelled...seaworthy. Seaworthy is a good thing if you are a boat. As a dinner companion...well, if it's your baby brother you don't care.
I hugged him hard, stared into his ocean blue-green eyes and asked the hostess how long we would have to wait for our table. When she said we had at least 45 minutes, I asked him if he would like to walk across the street to see my office. As we came through the revolving doors of our high-rise building we ran into a group of my colleagues who were heading off to dinner themselves. My first thought was, "Oh this is perfect, I would love for my brother to meet them." But I could see by their faces that they assumed that Kate was just dragging another homeless person into the building to talk about spirituality in the lobby out of the wind.
I have to admit I was a bit heartbroken. My brother was looking for someone to mentor his spiritual journey and I was just so sure that if he could only meet one of these inspired thinkers, he might make that connection. But it was obvious that my friends were not interested in stopping to be introduced and chat it up with my dread-locked companion...whoever he was.
Shawn and I continued up the elevators to my office. I showed him around our floor and then we took the elevator back to the lobby so that we wouldn't miss getting our table for dinner.
As we came out of the elevators and crossed the lobby towards the revolving doors, in blew (literally...it was a very, very windy evening) another friend who had his office in our building. I hesitated for just a moment, and before I could say a thing he crossed the lobby extended his hand to my brother and introduced himself. I was speechless. This was one very inspired (and admired) spiritual thought leader. I was sometimes a bit intimidated by his reputation, but never his humor and affection. His laughter and embrace were as large as his heart.
I introduced Shawn as my brother and we invited him to join us for dinner. He had a meeting he was rushing for...the same one the others had been on their way to...but he made it clear that he would have loved to share a meal with my sea-scented brother and I.
This man, in one handshake and genuine moment of affection, gave my brother all the information he needed to apply for mentorship. They shared two amazing weeks of pedagogy later that year. It is a relationship that will span a lifetime.
My friend gave my brother (and I) a perspective on spiritual leadership that was based on a genuine interest in the lives of others and a commitment to living a life of love in action.
My brother learned well from his mentor...I like to think they learned much from eachother during those two weeks. My brother is supremely kind. My brother is one of the least judgmental people I know. My brother is heroic in his practice of charity. My brother is a man who lives his days poised in grace.
I am proud to be his sister.
I will miss talking to him every few days...but I think the men, women, and children of Panama, Tahiti....and all the places around the world his heart will touch with kindness...are going to be blessed by his visits.
Go with God beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy...