May 15th, 2016
FTX Paris (Pain Perdu Et Câlins) Speech
On October 11th of last year my best friend died.
Her name is Daisy Mae and she changed my life forever.
Sixteen years ago she and her sisters were abandoned in the trash and found by people with kinder hearts.
Daisy, a brown eyed little puppy, was then adopted by two people who are dear to my heart. I can remember clearly the day I first met her.
I walked into her new home and this brown ball of energy and wonder barreled over to me.
She looked up at me with her deep dark brown eyes and clearly asked where I had been all this time as she and I were of course the best of friends.
In that moment my life took a sharp turn. Not left or right.
My life took a turn up.
At that time I had been living most of life with a black and thick hatred for myself.
I don’t know.
Why do any of us hurt ourselves?
Why do we believe our lies?
Two years later I was visiting my Daisy and she asked me why I had not been adopted off of the streets into a loving family as she had?
To her I was a quality puppy and also her best friend.
I told her I was working on it but I was shy and scared to open and risk my fragile heart.
I could tell opening her heart to others was never a risk for Daisy but she understood her friend was troubled and alone and she wanted to help.
So she offered some sage street advice.
“What you need to do is start a gang. That way while you’re on the cold hard streets no one will mess with my pal.”
It made sense to me.
And having Daisy (a self proclaimed brown belt ninja) in a gang with me would be a powerful ally.
I asked her what we should call our little gang and recommended my favorite breakfast that my mother made me when I was a boy. French Toast. Or as you call it Pain Perdu.
She agreed French Toast was a good choice as it was brown (the color of love according to Daisy) and tasty and made you feel loved and safe.
Just like her favorite thing in the world did – Hugs.
And with that one conversation the French Toast and Hugs Gang was born.
FTX for short.
Time passed and with Daisy as my friend I gradually began to open my heart to more and more people. Some of those people joined our gang and we began to travel the world together.
Feeding people French Toast and giving them Hugs.
Only now can I see clearly what Daisy had planned for me all along.
What Daisy gave to me.
Have you ever looked into someone’s eyes and seen total love and acceptance for who you are even if you can’t see who you are yourself?
That was my Daisy.
An abandoned kid from the street whose heart stayed soft.
There is an incredible strength in softness.
There is an incredible braveness in kindness.
What are our hearts but seeds of love?
The earth around them can grow hard and filled with the rocks and weeds of bad memories.
But Daisy knew that if you have a friend, just a single friend, who will water and garden the earth around your heart it will grow into the most beautiful of flowers.
A flower of light.
And she should know. After all she was a Daisy.
Which is why when we met sixteen years ago she was so very happy.
Because she had found her friend.
Two days before she passed away last October I went to visit her one last time.
Her bones rippled under her thin brown fur and her nose was cracked and dry as she panted and lay on her side unable to stand on her own.
Her breath was metallic and came in and out in hard and soft puffs.
Her body was shutting down and starving itself.
But her eyes were still clear, brown and present.
And her eyes saw her friend.
It was then that a miracle happened.
She wagged her tail, stood up, drank some water and then she held me.
I will never forget this monumental act of unconditional love.
I held her for as long as I could and I told her that my love for her would last forever.
I arrived in a cold and grey Paris two months later.
A hollow shell of a man.
Not only had my best friend passed but six others in the past year.
Even with my Gang, even with the teachings of love Daisy gave me I was lost.
“Lost” in French is perdu.
“French Toast” is simply translated as “lost bread”.
Which is how you see me now.
But then I met you.
All of you.
The French people.
And you watered my heart.
There is a softness here I have not seen anywhere else in the world.
There is a kindness here that I have never felt.
Here strangers care for strangers.
Here people share love for refugees.
I have been one of those strangers held up by another when I fell down the Metro stairs.
I have been protected by two elderly French men and their small dog when a poor lost drunken man threatened me.
I have begun once again to bloom.
And for that I thank you.
All of the people you meet here today have flowers in their hearts.
Some of their flowers need help.
Maybe some French Toast.
Maybe a Hug.
Let’s tend to them and to each other.
That was Daisy’s lesson to us all.
This FTX is dedicated to Jasmine June, Gary Sibley, Uncle Mike, dear sweet Lucy, gentle Ben, lovely Betty, Bryce Carroll-Coe and my little boy Teen.
This FTX is for Daisy.
When you get inducted into the French Toast and Hugs Gang you get a number. And it is yours for life.
Daisy and I shared our number.
It is the number 1.
Today we aren’t a gang.
Today we are an army.
An army of ONE.