At this point in my life, I feel relatively safe in terms of the choices I make. I don’t drive over the speed limit. That much. I don’t drink. That much. I don’t break the rules. That much. I tend to keep focused on thoughts and activities that are about good business, good living and good actions. Most days, I feel pretty safe in my own skin.
This was until I heard Kevin Sessums speak at the Woodstock Writers Festival Recovery Panel this month. Sessums was a big-deal editor at Vanity Fair. He interviewed celebrities for feature stories in the magazine and called people like Sarah Jessica Parker, Andy Cohen and Madonna “friends.” He was well-known and well respected. Sessums had it all. And then he didn’t.
While in his 50’s and going strong in his career, he became a crystal meth intravenous drug user. “Wait. What?” I said when I heard him speak. “He was in his 50’s and successful and shooting up?” But unbelievable as this is, it isn’t the story I want to tell here. I want to tell a side story of his friend named Michael. Kevin showed up at Michael’s doorstep one night, with no place to go. Michael let him in and gave him a place to stay.
This kindness, Kevin said, is what helped him change his life. One kind act can mean the difference for someone between hope and hopelessness. One kind act is the difference between a bed and the street; between hunger and nourishment; between feelings of worthlessness and self-esteem. As the poet Emily Dickinson wrote, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.” This is now tattooed on Kevin’s right arm. Michael recently passed away. Kevin wept on stage for his friend, giving all of us in the audience his gift of grace, hope and compassion – one kind act of sharing that had the power, that night, to change many lives, for good. Stay mindful. Be kindful.