I interviewed Brian Peterson quite a few years ago as part of the Culture of Kindness podcast series. It was the first interview I had held to make me cry. It was an incredible and unique story of how, when we remove the fear that we have, we can experience and provide incredible support to our community. Of the seven core values that underpin the Culture of Kindness theory, Courage being one, it is this story and the interviews that I did subsequently that made me realise that we had to remove fear and be courageous to truly be kind.
Brian shared this:
“Night after night, I'd be on my couch in downtown Santa Ana, where I live, reading this book about loving everyone around you with action. As I'm reading this book, one day I hear the screams from a man experiencing homelessness right outside of my window. I'm reading about loving my neighbour and then I hear my neighbour screaming outside my window. In my heart, I said to myself, I don't even know this man's name. My wife and I actually used to refer to him as the screaming homeless man. But this day was so different because my heart was changing. I told my wife, Vanessa, that I have to go meet this guy. Two days later on my home from work I just felt that nudge in my heart, in my spirit, to go search out the screaming homeless men as we refered to him.
I found him a block away from where I lived, I sat on the concrete right next to him on a hot day. I introduced myself to him as Brian but also his neighbour and then I apologised for never saying hello for years. He told me his name was Matthew, and that he had been homeless for 10 years. He told me his dreams, his wishes, his desires, and I actually hadn't painted in nine years. So I wasn't an artist looking for my next subject or anything like that. But I saw beauty on his face, I saw beauty in the struggle, I somehow saw past the smells and the large beard and, the isolation and the depression. And I saw who he was actually trying to be and hoping to be. And I saw it. It's so beautiful. I just asked him, Matthew, would it be okay, if I painted your portrait? I never planned on having an organisation. I never planned on ever doing more than one portrait. But from that experience, something came alive in me in my city, and now really in the world.”
I asked him about how we can all manage to remove those barriers of fear:
I love what you just said about the fear. I honestly believe in my heart that fear is the opposite of love. If there were opposites in the world to that extreme. And for me, it was that first experience, when I realised walking up to Matthew, I had sweaty palms, I was scared. I had butterflies in my stomach, all of the thoughts of what if this man is dangerous? What if he tries to hurt me? All those things fluttered through my mind as I approached him. And then when I sat down with him, and I met the calm, beautiful soul who Matthew actually is, I was so struck with a revelation of, Wow, maybe my breakthroughs in life are on the other side of fear.
There has always been opportunity for me to agree with fear in my heart. But now I view fear as a signifier. When I feel fear come over me, it's that something's about to happen. I actually run towards it. Because I know on the other side of that wall of fear, is a breakthrough for me to increase my capacity to love. I actually believe that it's in our nature that we know how to love our family, friends, and things of that kind of magnitude. But I also feel that at the end of all of this when we lay in our bed preparing to take our last breath, I think the most important thing is going to be did we learn to love? Did we learn to love through the tough times, did we learn to love the most unlovable? Did we learn to love the people that hurt us the most? And I think there's this process if we allow it to happen, where we are being taught how to love every second of the day. Will we respond to that call?
His podcast is full of incredible insight but my top takeaways from the section about fear were:
- That we need to run towards fear
- That love and fear are at opposite ends of the same scale
- The breakthroughs in life are on the other side of fear
- Ask yourself - are you learning to love?