Finding my life purpose in a cabbage patch

That evening, the people whom I served labeled me a “Cabbage Angel.”

by Scott Kalechstein — 

Many of us are searching near and far for a sense of purpose, a set of unmistakable marching orders from the divine or how we are to make a meaningful difference in the world with our unique set of gifts and talents. I found my life purpose one evening in 1992, while serving cabbage in the parking lot at a Grateful Dead concert. Allow me to elaborate.

I had always been meaning to see the Grateful Dead. I’d heard stories about how the parking lots at their concerts became something of a commune, a hippie flea market, complete with psychedelic colors, flowing tie-dye clothes and all kinds of items, legal or not, for sale. Having been four years old in 1967, I was a bit curious to experience a time capsule from the Summer of Love. When the Dead passed through my neck of the woods on a rare weekend I was in town, I jumped at the opportunity to go.

I arrived wearing the only tie-dye shirt I possessed and began to stroll through the parking lot, mesmerized by the sights and scents — the abundance of colorful people, clothes, creative artistic offerings, as well as all kinds of incense and other pungent smells. The mood of celebration was obvious in almost everyone. I enjoyed talking with different people and just making contact.

One woman caught me totally by surprise. She looked dreamily into my eyes, then whispered in my ear, “Are you an angel-in-training?” What a question! I searched for an honest reply, delicately seeking a balance between humility and self-esteem. “Yes,” I said simply, with a warm smile to back it up. She took my hands and began jumping up and down, beckoning me to do the same. “He’s teaching us!” she exclaimed joyously. “He’s teaching us all!” She bounced away, leaving me startled and delightfully dazed. What a character!

After some time had passed, the temperature began to cool down. I made my way to my car and found a warm and cozy sweatshirt, one that had the words Pinecrest School on it. Accepting that I would be slightly out of uniform, I covered over my tie-dye with the establishment look, choosing comfort over adhering to the standard dress code of the Dead.

Right away I noticed a change in the way people were relating to me. They glanced at my shirt and quickly looked away, not wanting to make eye contact. After 20 minutes of this treatment, I felt confused and frustrated. I went over to a cart where a woman was selling food. Her sign, a humorous take on the book cover of Be Here Now, by Ram Dass, said “Eat Here Now.”

I asked if she knew why people were avoiding me. “You’re dressed like a cop,” she said nonchalantly, as if it should have been obvious to me. “Oh, shit,” I replied. At least the mystery was solved. I asked her for some of the raw cabbage that she was using to stuff falafel sandwiches. She filled a plate with cabbage, charged me two dollars, and I walked away noisily munching and seriously contemplating my predicament.

What to do? I didn’t want to appear threatening to people in this festive atmosphere, but I wasn’t willing to brave the cool temperature without my sweatshirt.

I decided to practice emanating loving vibes into my environment, hoping that the intentions of my heart would override the suspicions that my wardrobe aroused. Pretty soon I noticed people were not looking at my clothes as much; their eyes had found something much more attractive to gaze on — my cabbage. Pairs of hungry eyes met my plate of food, and more than once I was asked, “Hey, brother, where’d you get that? Can you spare a piece of cabbage?”

I decided to extend the plate to anybody who showed an interest. A collection of brothers and sisters joined me in the happy percussion of cabbage munching. After a few minutes, the plate was empty. With enthusiasm, I made my way back to the Eat Here Now cabbage patch and ordered a refill. I went back numerous times over the course of the night, filling up and dispensing the goods, building trust and community around me, and having a grand time of it all.

That evening, the people whom I served labeled me a “Cabbage Angel.” While I was immersed in my new expression, it struck me quite suddenly that I was fully engaged in living my life purpose. It dawned on me that my life purpose had little to do with music, writing or public speaking — my usual forms of livelihood. I had been confusing form with content, the gift-wrapping with the gift.

The gift is the love, the spirit that is communicated as me and through me while I do my thing. That night I realized that I could put down my guitar, walk the land with my cabbage, and give a gift every bit as powerful as the music and inspiration that I share in my present career.

After that experience, my work changed. I knew more deeply that each song or message I offer is like an empty cup. If I am going to reach people on the heart level, I have to pour my heart into that cup.

While in the past I was primarily concerned with communicating wise and clever words or being musically on pitch, now I was more interested in infusing the words and music with my soul. I stood before audiences less polished and more intimate, less guarded and more vulnerable, less concerned with being perfect and more concerned with being loving.

I had been singing and speaking professionally for eight years, enjoying every minute of it, thinking all the time that those forms of expression were my purpose. What I discovered that evening as an angel-in-training was that career and life purpose are not the same thing. I also discovered that the pain of being judged (or seen as a cop) can be put behind me when I make the decision to be on purpose, giving love.

And I learned that if I ever get tired of singing and speaking, a lucrative career in cabbage awaits me ….

 

Scott Kalechstein is a counselor, coach, minister, inspirational speaker, recording artist, a lighthearted miracle mischief-maker, and modern-day troubadour. Scott’s writings are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any illness or medical condition. If while reading you laugh your head off and your heart opens, but symptoms still persist, please see your doctor. 415-721-2954, scott@scottsongs.com or www.scottsongs.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 5, October/November 2008.

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