We launch the movement with a particular emphasis on the homeless and economically challenged. The measure of a healthy society lies in how it treats peripheral people. If we attune to them, incorporate them, and recognize their precious human value …or if we just walk on by, shunning and shaming them, looking away. It lies in our compassion for those battered by a still unjust world, our respect for those who are voiceless and unseen. An evolving society makes determined efforts to open the door so that everyone has a chance to come back home, whatever that means for them. It prioritizes the nurturance and compassionate re-integration of those on the outside looking in. With our hearts on our sleeves, we never forget that we are all part of this human-nest. If even one is left out, the nest is empty.
Partly because I grew up with the sceptre of homelessness always hanging over me, I had a particular empathy for street people. They were on the outside looking in, but so were we- just one more missed rent payment from the streets. Strengthening my compassion for the homeless was my grandmother’s depthful humanism. She only had to say ‘But for the Grace of God there go I’ once for it to land within me as my humantra of connectiveness. I really got what it meant- if not for my Go(o)d fortune, I too could be sleeping in a bus shelter. Thereafter, I spent years contemplating the question of how karma or some other force had conspired to give me a roof over my head and another human, 50 yards down the road, little more than a bus shelter to sleep in. It all seemed so arbitrary and so easy to change, and yet society seemed to be doing so very little to change it.
In my twenties and thirties, my empathy for the homeless deepened. I frequently arranged lunch prep and distribution to street people in the downtown area. Whenever I had a little extra cash, I would go out on the streets of Toronto looking for someone to give it to. And, in one situation, I found out the bank account information for an individual who was intermittently homeless and made occasional deposits. I never imagined any of this as a noble act both because I make no value based distinction between myself and the other (Tat Twam Asi-I am that, too.) and because I am certain that we all have a responsibility to take care of those who are less fortunate. At this stage of human development, many of us are unable to live a life that actualizes our gifts and callings. This is not a reflection of our inherent value, but of the world we live in- one that is oriented around survivalism rather than authenticity as its primary way of being. This is slowly changing, but we will not get there unless we open our hearts to all of humanity. As we expand in connectiveness, we lay down tracks for a more humane world. And we begin to see ourselves in each other, to recognize our shared humanness, to realize that we are walking beside each other on the trailways of transformation. Hands held together, hearts intertwined, bridging our way to God.
It is all too easy to imagine ourselves inherently superior when we have been blessed with better circumstances than another human being. But this is a naïve, egoic lens. We must never forget that we could be walking in anyone’s shoes, if only a few of our life circumstances had been different. And, even more to the point, it is often those who are the most peripheral who are the most advanced souls on the planet. In a survivalist world, it is often the most densely armoured individuals that succeed. Yet the most sensitive among us- those old souls who feel everything and are more strongly impacted by the disparity between an authentic life and the falsified energy of the world- often end up in the most challenged circumstances. As I wrote in ‘Ascending with both feet on the Ground’:
We are powerful beyond measure, and so deeply vulnerable at the same time. This may seem like a dichotomy, but it isn’t. We have misunderstood real power. It has been something assertive, non-surrendering, pushing on through. This is not real power. This is simply willfulness. Real power is something else—receptivity, open-ness, the courage to keep your heart open on the darkest of days, the strength to feel it all even when the odds are stacked against you. Real power is showing up with your heart on your sleeve and absolutely refusing to waste one moment of your life hidden behind edginess and armour. The art of enheartened presence. Now that’s power.
After all the malevolent warriors end each other, the open-hearted will inherit the earth.
In 2007, after turning down a publishing offer for my first book- Soulshaping- I decided to self-publish it on my own terms. After a strong start, I got to talking with “Slim”- a homeless man who I had befriended while writing the book. I called him my “pushcart guru” because he shared great wisdom while pushing his cart of belongings around the neighborhood. The idea emerged- Slim would sell the book on the streets of Toronto. After getting him a sweater- “Buy a great self-help book here” and some laminates (author bio, book excerpts etc.), he got to selling Soulshaping on street corners (click here to watch video). In a matter of only a few months, he sold hundreds of books. It was quite something to witness. People would come to the area looking for him, and some even sent money from faraway places, asking me to mail back signed copies of the book. Not signed by me, but signed by Slim! It was really beautiful, and it was a co-creation that benefited everyone- Slim, those who enjoyed the book, and me- my book reached out to more people. Soon thereafter, I did a deal with a publisher for Soulshaping. But I always wondered- what would it be like to create a world-wide distribution system with homeless and other economically challenged individuals selling heart-centred products? What would it be like to create opportunities for those who are on the outside looking in? How can we construct a distribution system that is inclusive of all of humanity?
I still don’t have a definitive answer to those questions, but I am going to try to find out in real time. With this wintention, I have begun the Love it Forward movement. An experiment in connectiveness, we will make heart-centred products available to individuals to sell on the streets, door to door, in their communities, through internet links. Soul-diers of a heartfelt order, we will create pathways of possibility to support individuals and causes who need it. Check out the wealth of possibilities for participation at loveitforwards Join the movement page. The economically challenged will benefit on many levels- if they sell a product, they will earn a significant percentage of the profit for their efforts. And an additional percentage of money generated by the system i.e. through retail sales, donations, internet affiliate links will also be dedicated to supporting challenged individuals and causes of value. There is so much good work to be done.
If you get a moment, please check out our humanifesto. It is not a fixed document- this movement is a work in process. With the principles of benevolent intentionality and unity consciousness pulsing through our hearts, and with practical actions flowing through our hands, we move onward…from inward… to outward… to loving forward a new human-kind. Out with the old, in with the true.
We welcome your support and participation. We cannot rise alone. We rise together, on the wings of our love.
~Jeff Brown, at Love it Forward Heart-Quarters. April 2, 2013.