Say Anything


By Mark E. Smith

When you have a disability like me, you get used to some referring to you as “brave.” Yet, there’s nothing intrinsically brave about disability, in itself. You have it, life goes on, no place for bravery.

However, the human experience requires tremendous – sometimes, stomach-churning – bravery if we are living authentically to our best. My daughter, at this writing, has three weeks to decide if she’s attending Pratt in New York City to major in photography, or George Mason in Washington D.C. to major in psychology. Those are not only two completely different college experiences, but totally different life paths. Imagine the bravery it takes for an 18-year-old to make such a decision.

Bravery, after all, is an inner-feeling spoken – there’s nothing scarier than that. For example, while my daughter deliberates colleges, there’s little on the line. However, once she discloses her choice, she’s committed to it – it will take bravery for her to utter the words, “Dad, I’ve chosen….”

But, let’s go deeper, let’s think about the bravest moments in our lives, feelings spoken. What do they sound like?

I’m falling in love with you.

I love you, but I’m not in love with you.

I just had to come over here and introduce myself.

I’m sorry.

I was wrong.

I wish I was who you need me to be, but I’m not.

I’m scared.

I need help.

I want a divorce.

Will you marry me?

I can’t.

I’m doing it!

The list goes on, and the words are different for each of us at vital turning points in our lives. Yet, the definition is a universal truth: bravery is a feeling spoken.

Here’s the real question, though: if bravery is a feeling spoken, what’s its impact on our lives?

Authenticity to ourselves. If we want to truly be ourselves, we must… well… be ourselves. We must be honest with our feelings, honest enough to vocalize them even when so much is at stake, when our deepest, sometimes scariest feeling are vocalized – and that takes the ultimate bravery.


The Humanity of Foot Washing


By Mark E. Smith

There’s been an amazing trend across the country of very financially and socially successful people – from business titans to professional athletes – washing the feet of the homeless.

Now, we know how superficial we in the U.S. can be, where many look down on the homeless, walking around them on city sidewalks like they’re invisible.

And, yet, they’re not invisible. They’re as human as you and me, with a value and depth to their humanity that’s no less than anyone else’s. And, this is where foot washing comes in. See, while “foot washing” is biblical, it’s also very much about humility. It’s about simply connecting with others as-is, caring just to care, loving just to love, where superficial pettiness doesn’t separate us. Rather, our humanity unites us. After all, what’s more socially leveling and caring than washing others’ feet?

I’ve just entered my 42nd year, and if there’s one lesson I’ve learned in my life it’s not to judge others – and not to allow them to judge me. My ultimate role is to love and be loved, as ideally all of our roles should be. I don’t care if you’re worth $2-billion like a gentleman I’m currently interviewing for a writing project, or if you’re flat broke like a homeless gentleman I met in Vegas last summer and shared a poignant moment with. You can smell like cologne or urine. You can live in a mansion or a shack. You can be of any color, of any religion, of any sexual orientation, from any educational background. I don’t care. My only concern is, are you a kind person, and if so, I will be glad to wash your feet, human to human, where I trust you’d do the same for me.

The fact is, in my 42 years, I’ve known the pain and injustice of, as Martin Luther King Jr. put it, being judged not based on the quality of my character, but the color of my skin, so to speak. Strangers and those close to me alike have judged me many of times, obviously based on my physical disability but for other petty reasons, as well. And, it all hurt. However, it’s all taught me to love and accept others at deeper, truer levels. I will love you for you, as-is, period. And, it’s an amazing process where it’s brought amazing people into my life who I wouldn’t have known if I were judging and stereotyping.

For some of us, we see having the opportunity to “wash others’ feet” as a blessing. Yet, imagine how wonderful it is to have one’s own feet washed, to just know that someone cares.