I read this true story in the Orange County Register. I thought this story was one example of how a simple moment of generosity can have such an impact. It felt to me to be indicative of how the kingdom acts in the world through its agents. Perhaps we are all meant to become Jedi Masters!
"Dear Master Jedi,
This is an open letter of deep appreciation to you. I hope that somehow it finds its way to your computer screen.
You are an actor, and a damn funny one to boot. You’re really skilled at working with the unpredictably of kids and turning it into entertainment. I really hope that when you auditioned for and won this gig, that you’ve been as pleased with your job as your audiences have been with your performance. I also hope that this leads to bigger and better things, if that’s what you choose. You’re a supremely decent man and I’m ever in your debt for how you helped me out Tuesday, June 4th at the end of the last show of the day.
You see, during the months of planning for our Disneyworld trip, I found out about the Jedi Training Academy in Hollywood Studios and knew that my little boy would LOVE participating in it. He has been diagnosed with autism, and is typically oblivious to what goes on around him–except for Star Wars. I found an online clip of the Jedi Academy that some parent uploaded and showed him. He was so excited!
“I want to do that! I want to fight Darth Vader!”
He so very seldom really communicates with us that when he does, I move heaven and earth to keep that connection going. He wanted to fight Darth Vader, huh? Then by God, he would.
When we arrived at Hollywood Studios at the ribbon drop, I high-tailed it to sign up for the Jedi Training. There was already a huge line, and I was a little worried that all the spots would fill up before we reached the front of it. I was also concerned because the workers at the front were asking the KIDS questions to ascertain if they can follow instructions. I squatted down and had a little pep talk with my boy.
“Josiah, look at me, please. Look at me. Good. Listen to me. Are your ears on? Good. That lady is going to ask you how old you are. Do you know how old you are? Eight! That’s right! Now, you HAVE to talk to her, OK? I mean it, sweetie. When she talks to you, you talk back, or she won’t let you fight Darth Vader.” He never gave any sign of recognition, but I hoped that he understood. We’ve been working on appropriate conversation skills for months now, and I was counting on that therapy to kick in high gear for him in this moment.
It’s our turn! Here we go.
“Hello and good morning!” Said a bright and cheery Disney cast member to Josiah. (They are ALL bright and cheery.) “Are you ready to battle the Dark Side?”
“Yes.” Josiah mumbled.
Oh my God! He talked to her!
“Good! We need brave Jedis like you. How old are you?”
Josiah hesitated. She asked him again. I was about to answer for him when he said, “I eight.”
“Eight. That’s great! Now, can you follow directions?”
Josiah blinked at her.
“If I told you to raise your hands, what would you…Good!”
Josiah had risen his hands up high before she finished her question.
Because of this miracle of a “conversation” we were able to secure two spots for both of our kids in the 8:00 show. (our daughter decided she wanted to be a Jedi too) Perfect! This is going to be something they’ll remember their entire life!
After signing up, we went about our sight-seeing of the park–riding Star Tours 3 times in the process. Before and after each ride or attraction, my son asked, “Am I going to fight Darth Vader now?” “No.” I’d reply. “After supper. Have you eaten supper yet?” “Oh. That’s right.” He’d sigh. Then we’d have the same conversation again in about twenty minutes.
The day went on, and a storm blew through. I was glad that our Jedi training was after the big storm. Yay for us, right?
Accordingly, after we ate supper at Hollywood and Vine, I took both of my Padawans by the hand, and led them to the Jedi training to suit up in their robes.
“Now? Is it time to fight Darth Vader now?” He anxiously asked.
“Almost, sweetie. Almost.”
They led the kids to the stage and there we saw you, Mr. Jedi-man. You were funny, entertaining, and great with the kids.
Then, Darth Vader made a wonderfully dramatic entrance!
Omg. Here we go!
I looked at Josiah’s face which was plastered with the biggest grin I’d ever seen.
My face was too.
The assisting Jedi sent kid after kid to center stage to battle the Sith Lord. My daughter, Esther was so cute! She stood so far away from him to “fight.” I laughed and enjoyed watching her.
This is so cute!
Five left…Now four. It began to sprinkle rain.
Three left. Now two. Now….
“We’re sorry ladies and gentlemen. Due to the rain, the Jedi academy is closed.”
Josiah stood there onstage; light saber at the ready. He turned and locked his eyes on mine. Then he screwed his face up and cried.
“No! Nooooo! I didn’t get to!”
He ran to me and I held him while he cried.
I’m sure most people would, on observing this, assume he is spoiled. I assure you he isn’t.
This is Autism. He was fixated on something, then didn’t get to do it. The vacation would be ruined for him–and we were only in day two of it. Nothing we do can ever get him back on track once he derails. I began to cry despite myself. This would be all he would remember of his Disney trip.
I locked eyes with you. Do you remember? I was crying like a blubbering dummy.
I motioned for you to come to me. You stood there and looked around for a second. I motioned again. You took a hesitant step my way…then another. We stood face to face in the pouring rain.
“He’s autistic.” I choked out. “This is all he’s talked about all day. Is there anything you can do?”
“Meet me around the side there.” You nobly said. Kudos to staying in character the entire time, by the way.
We made our way around to the side of the stage, amid a sea of parents, kids, and cheery cast members.
There you were, waiting all Jedi-like in an alcove. Waiting for Josiah.
You then made a “Grand presentation” to him and gave him Darth Vader’s lightsaber–autographed by the Dark Lord himself!
Josiah was in awe. You gave him the moon, Mr. Jedi Master. You fixed his day…his entire vacation! You got him back on track.
I couldn’t help but cry, and I’m crying now remembering your generosity of spirit for my little boy. You easily could have thrown your hands up when I motioned for you. You could have pointed to your character handler and shrugged a fake “I’m sorry.” You could have simply ignored me and turned your back.
But you didn’t.
You may not even remember this moment, it was so small for you. I would be remiss, though, if I didn’t fully explain how you…YOU, Jedi Master made a ruined moment beautiful. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart.
We spent the rest of the night jumping in puddles, riding rides, enjoying the nearly empty streets of Hollywood Studios, and watching Fantasmic.
Thank you, again. You will never know how you helped us out. To say that you made our vacation is not an exaggeration.
Most Sincerely and Appreciatively,
Sharon Kay Edwards"
Ken Froessel, Vice President. Ken was at the very beginning of The Mustard Seed Venture which began in a refurbished utility room at Alexandra Fraser’s house located on a street called Inspirational Drive in Sedona, AZ. And inspiration he found by going within to connect with God and from that “sacred space” found the desire to freely serve others. The meeting space has changed a few times since the early days but the mission of The Mustard Seed Venture continues to inspire him to serve as an active participant and board member. Ken is also an Interfaith minister, a wedding officiant, and currently works for Big Brothers Big Sisters. He is also a former hospice chaplain/volunteer. Ken is a teacher of A Course in Miracles, and heads up the prison ministry for the Circle of Atonement.
This is a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago on our previous network, but I'd like to share it again here..
It has been awhile since I posted so I thought I would make an appearance. I must admit that most of the time I am not living in the kingdom, and for that matter, extending it. I am generally absorbed in my own interests and how they are being met or not being met. I also tend to think the kingdom is this exorbitant state that is extremely rare and that to enter it one has to be pure of heart and mind--at least for a moment. Therefore, I just keep trudging along hoping that my limited commitment, devotion, and desire increases so that perhaps one day, one lifetime, I will realize that I am in the kingdom.
I must admit, this vision of mine does not inspire much hope which means why I am not feeling all that inspired most of the time. So, I then think I would be better off building some earthly kingdom which ends up being another losing deal as I have already failed, to a large degree, in that. Actually, I think the desire for both worlds, this in-between place, is what is dispiriting. Yet, I am not sure how up I am to the task in solving this dilemma. All would seem lost but I had a little glimpse of the solution the other day.
I have been working on a ministry that in a large degree has been to solve this dilemma. It contains the needed impetus to seek and extend the kingdom along with the need to be sustained in worldly terms. Right now, the only part of this ministry that is firing is officiating weddings, visiting a couple of people who are homebound and lonely, and corresponding with prisoners. I am seeking to add to this outreach by offering spiritual counseling and officiating funerals to continue to grow this ministry and, along with that, to personally deepen spiritually. What I have achieved so far, and the movement I am still making, would not be possible without the help of a really great life coach by our friend, Alexandra Fraser.
As I mentioned above, entering the kingdom sure sounds nice but I tend to think it is more for those who have the discipline and/or belief that I lack. Well, that might be true but I did say that I had a glimpse of the solution to this problem the other day. It went like this:
I was visiting Alexandra the other day to help me get the new elements to my ministry going such as a new website, etc. At one point, my dilemma became very clear as I saw it as a struggle of who I think I am currently and the person who I am to become. In both instances, there are two worlds that correspond with these two people. The world I live in now corresponds to a limited self that believes that it is lacking, self-centered, and easily crushed--rehearsed through many years. Not very fulfilling. The other world corresponds to a self that needs to navigate with fullness, selflessness, and invulnerability to meet its larger scope. I am very well acquainted and accustomed with the one self but not the other. So being thrust into a clear distinction of where I am currently and where I am headed was pretty daunting to say the least.
Yet, what came out of this meeting with the help of Alexandra was the following glimpse of the kingdom. She was advocating for the self that I am to become as a self that I am already expressing in the world. The blustering and faltering self that I perceive myself, to her, was not the Ken she was seeing. I thought at first this was some kind of false attempt at building me up but it soon became clear that this was coming from a place of conviction in her and backed up by real progress that I have made on my journey.
After my session, David Sunfellow joined us and he was encouraging of me in moving forward into this larger world that lay before me. David, was still fresh and inspired from fulfilling his purpose the night before in leading a group of us in exploring how to live in the kingdom from what we learned from NDEs (Near Death Experiences). Between Alexandra and David, I felt more alive, hopeful, and expectant that I would move into this larger world that represented a self that was well-equipped to meet its seeming demands. I realized afterward that I was catching a glimpse of the kingdom.
What was so great about this experience is that it resolved my earlier dilemma. First, the kingdom does not have to be some time-down-the-road, full-blown, experience that will happen only when I am fully-cooked but a state that can be experienced right now even with the littlest of willingness to go in its direction. This means there is always a bridge that connects who I currently think I am to who I am to become, or the world to the kingdom. It really is a bridge of focus. Secondly, I realized that I need the support of community and friends, others who are consciously seeking the kingdom, to get to where I am going. I am recognizing more and more that doing it solely on my own is a trap.
In summary, I had an experience of the kingdom with the help of my friends who had entered the kingdom whether or not they were aware of it. The perception I had of myself was miraculously overturned by someone extending the generosity of the kingdom. The feeling of it remained with me as I left them and it showed me that any one of us just needs to be a step closer to the kingdom to extend it to someone who is a step behind. Also, this glimpse showed me that by stepping into my ministry that I will recognize that the kingdom lives in and around me, which will become apparent as I extend it to others.
All in all, it reminds me how important it is to continually focus on the kingdom through joining with others who are doing the same. This way the vision of the kingdom becomes more and more apparent while the solidity of a despairing and hopeless world recedes into the shadows. Thanks Mustard Seeders!
"Take your brother's hand, for this is not a way we walk alone."--Jesus of A Course in Miracles
When a woman in a certain African tribe knows she is pregnant, she goes out into the wilderness with a few friends and together they pray and meditate until they hear the song of the child to be born. They recognize that every soul has its own vibration that expresses its unique flavor and purpose. When the women attune to the song, they learn it and sing it out loud together. Then they return to the tribe and teach it to everyone.
During the pregnancy a medicine person will visit the mother. As family and friends sing the song the mother is put into a trance so the medicine person can communicate directly with the child. They inquire as to what crucial role or gift they are bringing into the fabric of the village. Together with this information and their song they are given a name that represents their essence. When the child is being born, the community gathers and sings the child's song, singing them from the other world, announcing their name and place into this one.
Later, when the child enters education, the village gathers and sings them their song. When the child passes through the initiation to adulthood, the people again come together and sing. At the time of marriage, the person hears his or her song. At all the important moments in a persons life the village gathers together to sing. And finally, when the soul is about to pass from this world, the family and friends gather at the person's bed, just as they did at their birth, and they sing the person on into the next life.
There is something inside each of us that knows we have a song, and we wish those we love would recognize it and help support us to sing it. How we all long to be loved, acknowledged, and accepted for who we are!
In the tribe there is one other occasion when, if needed, the villagers will gather to sing a persons song. If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or any unacceptable social act, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them. Then together they sing the persons song to them. The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behavior is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity.
When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another. A friend is someone who knows your song and sings it to you when you have forgotten it. Those who love you are not fooled by the mistakes you make or the dark images that you may hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly, your wholeness when you are broken and your innocence when you feel guilty. Even when you sometimes forget, the ones who love you know, that you can never, ever, lose your song.