Sunday, July 22, 2012

Stephen Covey Lived What He Preached

Eleven years ago a stranger made a lasting impression on my life.  He gave me strength to pursue my dreams, and always try no matter how hard and hopeless it seemed.  He never told me his name, but rather gave me his son's name--Sean Covey--and even his son's book Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers.  The point remained that I was a teenage runaway and this stranger had taken Cade and I off of the street if only for a night.  
    Later, after I made the connection and realized who had taken a chance on homeless kids like me and Cade, I vowed to somehow thank Stephen Covey.
    Sometimes life is bittersweet, filled with amazing irony and moments that can't be bought.  For you to understand, let me take you back into my memories . . . a long time ago when Cade and I were homeless street musicians.

    We'd performed for hours, hoping to draw a crowd, but every time we did, the Hare Krishna devotees would chant near us, and all of the Waikiki tourists would jet.
    The two Spaniards who played guitars came up to us that same night. “Something has to be done. We’ll all starve if they don’t stop this Krishna chanting. We don’t want to go back to Spain—work for our father in the vineyards—but we will if they don’t stop scaring off our business.”
    Cade and I both groaned. “It is a serious problem. But what can we do?” Cade asked.
    “I tried talking to one of the cops. They don’t like any of it though. They don’t even want music on the strip anymore. If they get enough complaints, they want to shut all of us performers down, or make us buy permits.”
    “That’s harsh,” I said.
    And the night continued. Every time we’d get close to making money, Hare’s name would fill the street and everyone would run.
“God,” I prayed, “please help us make some money so we won’t starve. I came to Hawaii trying to find myself. Instead I’m realizing how much I hate starvation.”
    We finally started playing another song, a fast one we called “Famous for a Moment” because it pulled people in. That’s when a fancy car drove up behind us.
    “Hey, you two musicians,” a man said from the driver’s seat.
    “Us?” Cade asked.
    “Yeah. Would the two of you like to play at a party? I’ll pay you well. Food and drinks will be there. You can help yourselves and eat as much as you like.”
    That was all I needed to hear. “Absolutely. I’m in if you are,” I said to Cade.
    After a moment of studying the man’s fancy car, Cade nodded. “It sounds legit.” With that, we grabbed our packs and our instruments and we got into the back seat. I almost wanted to wave to Hare Krishna's friends as we drove away, but I decided against it. I was trying to be the bigger person.    

    “You two are very talented,” the man said.
    “Thank you,” I said. “We’ve had a lot of adventures in Hawaii.”
    We drove for a while, and I remembered thinking how fun it felt being inside of a real car. When we got to the house, I was stunned. Gorgeous plants grew everywhere. The place was very elegant in a tasteful sort of way. It made me wish I’d done my makeup or at least been able to afford some.
    “Wow,” Cade gasped. “This is somethin’ else.”
    We walked in and the nicest people greeted us. We hadn't talked long when the man who’d hired us insisted that we eat before playing. Just looking at the food seemed like Heaven. I tried acting sophisticated, like I wasn’t starving and I actually lived in a home and not on the street. I felt so low class because of my own insecurities. But those people remained kind. Visiting with us as we slowly ate the elegant food I wanted to devour.
    I met one man who wrote a book about Hawaii. He’d taken all of the pictures for it and as I looked as his work, it amazed me. “How beautiful!” He gave me a copy of his book and I put it reverently in my pack. I’d always wanted to be an author, so meeting a real live photographer and writer was a dream come true.
    I wrote a ninety-page book when I was in elementary school. Then in junior high I was on the school newspaper. It wasn’t until high school that I gave up my dreams. I’d joined a creative writing class. Anyone could try out to be in the honors writing program. The teacher just required some poetry, short stories and outlines. I got everything together and gave them to her. She called me in after school. I couldn’t wait to talk with her because she held all of my hopes in her hands. “Elisa,” she said slowly. “Some people aren’t meant to write. They’ll never be good at it. Even if they try, it just isn’t a gift they have. I’m sorry to say that you . . . are one of those people. I’m so sorry. Keep pursuing music. You have real talent with that.”
    I gave up writing and promised myself I’d never get rejected like that again.
    We played on and off for a couple of hours. The whole time I thought about writing and how hard it was giving up something I loved because someone knew I wasn’t good at.   
    After we finished playing, The Host visited with us for a long time and I wondered if he knew how much his words were changing my life. “Both of you are very unique, special people,” he said. “I’d like to give you something.” He handed me a book. “My son wrote this. I think I was supposed to meet you, to give you this book. It’s about becoming the person you’re meant to be.”
    “We met another author here, too,” Cade said. “So unreal.”
    “This is one of the most amazing nights of my life. Good food. Wonderful people. I feel like royalty, really.”
    The Host chuckled. “I’m glad I followed my instincts and asked both of you to come here.”
    “Me too. It’s inspiring talking with all of you. It was always one of my biggest dreams to be an author.”
    “Then maybe you’ll write a book someday,” The Host said. “Believe in yourself and you’ll accomplish great things.”
    “Thank you.” And the rest of the night I kept thinking about how much love shone in his eyes when he talked about his son. That was one lucky kid.
    The Host ended up asking us to stay the night in his son’s room—which was practically a whole house. We stayed, cleaned up and sneaked away the next morning. It felt so good sleeping in a real bed just once and the kindness from the previous night stayed with me and kept me warm.
    When we got to the strip, another street musician sat next to us. “Both of you seem pretty happy. What happened when that man picked you up last night?”
    “We played at the most wonderful party. It felt like a dream. Oh we got two books. One is from a photographer and then this one was written by the host’s son,” I said opening my pack and showing the books to the kettledrummer.
    “Do you know who this is?” he asked.
    “No, why?”
    “This author is very well-known, but his father—the man who picked you up—he’s also an author.”
    “No way! I wonder why he didn’t say anything?”
    “I don’t know. If I were him I’d be telling everyone. His book alone has sold millions of copies.”
    “What’s it about?” I asked.
    “Becoming the person you’re meant to be. Pursuing your dreams. He was really nice to you.”
    “So nice, I almost swore God sent him our way.”
    “Now there’s one man who practices what he preaches.”
    I smirked and sat on the sidewalk. Not only did we get a good meal, but I felt like another part of my journey had been fulfilled. I was discovering myself. Maybe I would take The Host’s advice. I didn’t think I’d ever write again after people told me I wasn’t meant to be a writer, but I could do other things. I just needed to believe in myself and hopefully my destiny would follow.

     It makes me cry because I never got to tell Stephen Covey thank you.  I always planned on finishing my book Homeless in Hawaii and then sending it to him.  For a kid who had NOTHING--to be treated with such kindness and generosity is astounding . . . So today I decided to write this and say, "Thank you, Stephen.  From a girl who had a small chance of accomplishing anything.  I grew up, and because of kind people like you, I became a published author . . .  Thank you for taking a chance on a homeless kid--you inspired me to accomplish great things.  You inspired me to try." 


This is an excerpt from my upcoming memoir Homeless in Hawaii.  If you'd like to add this to your to-read list, please click on the following picture.