On Courage

NewsletterAshley Stahl

I met my friend  Brad Kirsh in 1993. We were in elementary school, and I thought he was so cool that I even made myself a fake retainer so I could look like he did with his on!

I was a ridiculous kid, but that’s a whole other email.

Anyway, life happened. I grew up and so did he. Nothing went wrong, but we lost touch.

…Do you have any people in your life like that? Ones that are just so kind that their friendship leaves an imprint on your heart, ones that you think are so special, ones that just come in and out for a season?

I hope this email from me is a nudge to remind you that you should contact someone you lost touch with today… Someone who left an imprint.

(…Because life is short and why not?)

Anyway, the universe gave me the gift of running into Brad– he was out singing on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, CA.

I stopped in my steps. His voice broke the air with such a beauty that it just moved me to tears.

That kind person. That beautiful voice. My childhood.

…Then I threw some cash down into his jar, and sat on the curb to watch him. My smile was so huge it almost hurts to smile so much, and my heart was so full.

I can’t help but recommend that you  Follow Him— I eat his music up like it’s a Cinnabon (my fave thing ever).

I learned so much just sitting there– mostly I learned about what it means to have courage.

Perhaps I pat myself on the back now and again for “putting myself out there” and being “strong,” but honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever put myself out there like he was in that moment.

I mean,  listen to this song (Goo Goo Dolls– yes, please!).

He is putting his SOUL out into the world.

Imagine how it feels to just sing on the street like that… It probably feels like one of those bad dreams where you’re naked in public and trying to find your clothes.

(You know you’ve had that dream, and you know how hellish it feels. The worst.)

His voice is his art. His trade. And he gave all of himself to it. He’s been singing on streets now for a decade, I believe.

He checks his ego at the door.

He was committed and he was all in, whether people cared to hear him or not.

Women walked by chattering on their phones, people passed often without turning their heads. No one watching; people absorbed in their own worlds.

But Brad closed his eyes and he sang. I swear the place could have set fire, and he would have kept singing he was so focused.

I thought about how I sometimes feel awkward eating lunch alone at restaurants.

I thought about my first day of middle school, having transferred and knowing no one. I thought about my TEDx Talk, and how I’d never spoken to a crowd before that. I thought about how I puked before my first meeting in the Pentagon.

…That’s probably what it feels like to do what he does.

He’s doing what he really wants to do in the world, and he’s so committed to it that he doesn’t care what people think.

He lives my version of the naked in public nightmare by singing in the streets of Santa Monica every week no matter who listens. He does it for the sake of his true purpose in the world.

I don’t know what you do for a living, but to me, Brad is an example of true courage.

When I grow up, I want to be like him.

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