November 23rd, 2010
FTX – The Principal’s Office
hi everyone, shyam with the French Toast & Hugs (FTX) gang here!!
in the states we are on the eve of our thanksgiving holiday. it’s a time for sharing, a time for connection with the people we love and a time for food! 🙂
i wanted to write you about a moment i experienced just yesterday that was all that for me. surprisingly it began when i was called in to the principal’s office!
now i’m 39 years old and have been out of school for a very very very long time but on november 15th i received a call that changed all that.
it was from Principal Javier Guzman of the Los Angeles New Village Charter all girl high school. he asked if i was the one who headed up FTX because he had a couple of students in his office that wanted to learn about our gang, what we do and when our next event would be.
i was speechless.
i had never gotten an FTX cold call before and would have never expected it to be this cool.
honored by the call but shy and embarrassed about it at the same time i quickly got off the phone with Javier only to find myself with more questions than i could contain.
i tracked him down and was excited to schedule a meeting with him and the two students (Roslyn & KZ) who were asking about FTX.
which brings me to yesterday.
plenty nervous i showed up at the school with a handful of FTX soundtracks and stickers. Principal Guzman led me in to his office and went to get the girls. as i sat there i couldn’t help feeling, even at 39, that i was in trouble and some sort of detention was imminent!
soon the girls arrived and i started to explain FTX to them. how we set up in public places and hand out free french toast and hugs to people walking by. how i really stumbled onto the idea with the help of my dog pal Daisy Mae. how this one small idea has taught me so very much. that an unconditional gift is the same as unconditional love. and that unconditional love is the most powerful force i’ve ever experienced. that by handing out food to strangers you create an atmosphere of community and connection. and you quickly learn that there really isn’t much difference between strangers and you except for the fact that you don’t them yet. and pretty soon strangers = friends and the gang gets bigger and your heart grows stronger because you’re learning the truth.
the truth that we are all connected.
and when you can see yourself in everyone you meet, fear of the unknown slips away and love replaces it. love for yourself & love for them. because in the end we are all each other.
the girls (who learned about FTX when a teacher showed them photos of an FTX Downtown Los Angeles event he previously went to) are now planning to start their own gang! their own family. right now they’re calling it “Happy Waffles & Hi-Fives” and i have to admit that’s pretty damn sweet. i can’t wait to see the logo!!! they are going to invite the community around their school to come to their first event which should be sometime soon.
i told them that our next FTX events will be in 2011 most likely in San Francisco & New York City but that i looked forward at some point to collaborating with them in our first HWHF / FTX event!!
as i waited in the front of the school to take a picture i talked briefly with Javier. he told me that a lot of the girls in this school come from rough backgrounds. poor backgrounds. that about 40% of them are either pregnant or already have children. and that the five years after they graduate is the time when their future most hangs in the balance. for him it wasn’t enough to just teach them 9th thru 12th grades and then let them go. he plans to keep in touch with all his students after they graduate to see how they are doing.
i am deeply humbled and inspired by these girls. because regardless of their backgrounds they are willing and able to give of their lives, of their time and of their hearts. if they can do that in 10th grade then what will they do 10 years from now???
as i left, Roslyn handed me a gift of a copy of a drawing she had recently made. it wasn’t until i was in my car that i realized she had written on the back of it.
“hope you keep doing what you are and helping the world to make it better for all of us”
on this thanksgiving i tell you that i am thankful for Roslyn. i am thankful for KZ. i am thankful for Javier. and i am thankful for all of you. because we all are family.
link to photograph of Roslyn, KZ, myself & Principal Guzman
link to New Village Charter School