I hope that all is well with you, and you’re enjoying a holiday, and had a great Valentine’s Day!! I had a truly wonderful experience last week, which meant a great deal to me.
As I’ve mentioned before, I am a great fan of Joel Osteen, the minister from Houston, Texas, whose quiet, modest way has slowly brought him to the forefront of people’s attention. His books, which are basically inspirational practical messages of hope have all been #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers list, and his message is simple and pure and uncomplicated, you don’t even have to be deeply religious to be touched by it. I have mentioned him to friends of varied religions, and some not even that religious, and his message is direct, practical, warm, common sense for today’s often complicated world. He gives me hope and strength when I need it.
I first became aware of Joel when I was in a hotel room in New York years ago. Bored, late at night, I was flipping through channels with the remote, and when I got to Joel’s show, something stopped me. I watched and was touched and impressed, and assumed no one had ever heard of him. A few weeks later, running through an airport to catch a flight, I saw his book, bought it, read it, and loved it, and gave it to friends. I have remained a huge fan of his message, his mission, and his work ever since. He has written many books, and I’ve loved them all!!
Two years ago, I mentioned him to my PR people, just in a passing conversation, and one of them “knew someone who…knew someone….who knew someone…who knew him.”, and he was coming to San Francisco. I bought tickets to see his service, at the baseball stadium, and the person who knew him very kindly made an introduction. I invited Joel and his wife to come to my home for a visit, and to be honest, it was a major thrill for me. I was also very nervous about it, afraid that the man behind the message might be different, or commercial, or slick, or not what he seemed to be in his books and on TV. And he was different—-he was even better!! A little shy perhaps, quiet, gentle, funny, kind, natural, “normal”, a real person, a very big person in a VERY humble way (most truly great people are humble). I gobbled up the time talking to him, and his equally lovely wife. When I went to the service at the ballpark, with a friend, we were invited backstage to meet his sister, his brother, his mother and his children. They are strong family people, and all work together. His brother does medical missionary work in Africa half the year, his mother is amazing, his children are really nice kids. They exude love, and friendship, kindness and grace, and are fun to talk to. Meeting him two years ago was one of the great thrills of my life. And I recently discovered that he was coming back to San Francisco, and luckily I was going to be in town briefly for my son’s birthday, the day before. I got tickets again, and was invited backstage again. Joel touches my heart profoundly. Religion of any kind isn’t for everyone, but Joel is truly a very, very special person. I find him to be a remarkable person, and I’d say he is one of the few people in my life who impresses me most. He lives his message, he breathes it, he shares it, and gives generously of himself, without forcing his ideas on you. He offers them like precious gifts, and what you do with them, how you interpret and live them, is up to you.
When he does these tours around the country, the events are called “A Night of Hope”. It was that for me, and I was floating after seeing him again. He is just the nicest person, and once again his family embraced me. We were just hard working people, sharing the thoughts that warm us and give us strength, and enjoying a night off with a great friend. I feel soooo lucky to know him, and to have met him. Knowing him, and meeting him, and reading his work, has been life changing for me.
I cannot help but comment too on the absolutely heartbreaking events that happened in Florida last week. Having lost a teen aged child, to suicide, not violence, my heart aches for the parents, the families, the lives lost, the people who loved them. I am profoundly moved by the teacher who stood in a doorway to take the bullets meant for the children, and died in the process. It is love and heroism beyond measure. Apparently, a mother, distressed beyond belief, understandably, said they don’t want our “thoughts and prayers”, they want change. The statistics are absolutely horrifying. Over 200 school shootings since Sandy Hook, 65 last year, 17 since the first of this year. A friend of mine with a four year old, trying to pick a school for her child, wants a school that offers the most security against events like this. People are no longer picking a school for their math skills, their language program, the experience of the teachers—-they are picking schools for how well the children are protected from lethal incidents. People talk about the politics involved, which are complicated. For me, as a mother who lost a beloved son, all I hear and all I see and all I know are these grieving people who have lost precious children. My heart goes out to them. Their lives will never be the same again. they do have my heart and my prayers, my sympathy and compassion. It is a tragedy beyond measure. May it stop soon, and may their souls be blessed, and their memories cherished forever, and in time may those who love them find peace.
with all my love, Danielle