Sunday, June 20, 2010


Shortly after we moved to Long Beach, California in 1948, the magic of stringing ABC’s into words, changed from a task for school assignments into a way of discovering and exploring the many wonders of the world. It may have been because I was new in the neighborhood and hadn’t as yet acquired many friends, but I regularly found myself walking to the small branch library near our home. Most often after entering the Luther Burbank Branch Library I would head to a section of shelves which contained several rows of books with orange bindings. In these brightly adorned books were to be found the biographies of those founders of freedom who established our country, scientists and inventors, explorers and discoverers and most delightful of all sports heroes. I would then spend the next week before the books were due back at the library immersed in the lives of these exciting men and women.

I didn’t understand it then, but as the school years multiplied and then I turned to a career where books would continue to be a deeply meaningful part of my life, I little by little realized that I was becoming a chameleon-like amalgam of the lives and words of people who had impressed me over those decades. During those years I found myself first being impressed by people who I would label heroes and because I had placed them on a podium they became worthy of my reading about them, their accomplishments and what they felt was important in life. Each week I would be stimulated to become Babe Ruth or Clara Barton or Washington Irving or one of the other heroes whose life was presented in a very positive way on the pages of those orange biographies. This was long before I came to know that there were books about my heroes which were written by people who didn’t wear rose colored glasses as they researched and wrote.

Somewhere during those years I made a shift and it became living people who bore the title of teacher who would become the imprinters of impressions on my mind and heart. It wasn’t a very dramatic shift because I can still remember the impressions Mrs. Brown had on me in the second grade, partly because of the crush I had on her, but mostly because she helped me to see things I had never imagined existed. Rather than a dramatic shift it was more of an emphasis change from being influenced by those of the past whose lives I found chronicled in books during my personal reading to being impacted by that year’s teachers who interpreted and found hidden marvelous ideas found in the books which I had lightly skimmed over without realizing they were there and their importance.

The next metamorphous I can remember in my life is what I call my mentor stage. Once I entered this process I soon found it became impossible to escape. I distinguish mentors from teachers in this way. Teachers enter, drip their golden thoughts upon us and then pass out of the realm of continued influence. Mentors, I consider to be those teachers who enter one’s life and make such a dramatic impact that we make constant efforts to fall under their guidance on a continual basis. I am well aware that James Hobbs became the first mentor in my life and it saddened me when the changes in our lives made it extremely difficult for me to continue to be mentored by him. There have been countless others who have filled this influential role in my life, but I guess it is like one’s first love, the first mentor will always retain a special place in one’s life.

Although I have labeled them heroes or teachers or mentors, they also bear the titles of parents, prophets and peers. I have come to realized that there are some among the many with whom I interact with in mortality who evolve into a very special category in my life which I refer to as spiritual guides. These are they who have the capacity to instill in me a desire to move away from the mundane and explore things which are more sublime. These are they who help me to move away from a selfish life towards a more compassionate selfless life. These are they who help me to extend the dimensions of the results of my decisions from the here and now into hoped for eternities. These are they who help me to continually make the universal love of mankind as brothers and sisters a greater reality in my thoughts, words and actions. These are they who help me to beat the swords of my life into plowshares and to walk more constantly on the path of the Publisher of Peace. They are many and I am grateful for them.
I would like to express my gratefulness to just a few who have been my spiritual guides. I start with my parents and their patient and loving ways as they encouraged, corrected and moderated my steps as I stumbled though those early struggling years which form so much of the paint box and canvas upon which my life’s picture has been painted. I am grateful for all the teachers many of whose names are only remembered when I review report cards or look at year books, for the countless hours they spent preparing lessons which would stimulate and maybe add another stroke onto the canvas which would eventually make up my portrait. I am grateful to those mentors who have and will continue to add brightness and hue to my canvas without which the painting of my life would have been so much less. I am grateful to those spiritual guides who have made me realize that after all the paint of mortality has dried there will yet be many strokes added to the canvas as I continue to take the preparatory steps which hopefully will lead to where I will be able to spend the eternities with my Savior and Heavenly Father.
No inventory of the influences of one’s life would be complete without referring to that special Gift of the Holy Spirit which our loving Heavenly Father has made available to all of His children. That special Gift which helps us to see the good and bad in the words we read. That special Gift which helps us to prioritize and categorize the interpretations of dedicated teachers. That special Gift which guides us to those mentors and makes available to us their thoughts which hum the tunes which are in harmony with the songs of our souls. That special Gift which has filled our lives with spiritual guides who build, edify, strengthen and change our lives from what they have been into what they can become.