Billy Ward on How to love and be loved at TEDxFoggyBottom – Transcript
Right click to download the MP3 audio:
Billy Ward – Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
Here is the deal: Life is really all about love. I’m not just saying that because I’m a father of a newborn baby; I’m saying that because as a teacher and as a therapist I’ve seen people basically choose between two things: love or something else.
And what I’ve witnessed and experienced is this: When people choose love, they always choose right.
I was asked to speak today on the topic of illumination, and it made me think about the way the light inside us all can shine. And my favorite way is through our love which can illuminate in our relationships.
The most important relationship that we’ll ever have, is the relationship that we have with ourselves. And next comes the relationships that we share with one another.
As simply as I can put it, we are here on this very Earth, to love and to be loved — and love is light. In a second, what I’d like to do with you today, is a brief, relaxing, guided-imagery exercise, where I’m going to have you close your eyes and consider three expressions of light that can return us to love. I’m going to have you close your eyes and consider three items, and then associate each item with a person in your life.
So, let’s get ready. Can I ask you to put your feet flat on the floor, palms facing up in your lap, and when you’re ready, gently allow your upper eyelids to meet your lower eyelashes. Close your eyes and let’s everyone take a deep breath. Relax your shoulders.
The first item I’d like you to picture is the sun. Picture the sun in the big, blue sky, feel the warmth of her rays, and consider how the sun continues to show up every day, sharing its light and energy unconditionally, even on a cold February morning. Is there somebody in your life that reminds you of the sun? Somebody that loves you unconditionally? Picture that person now and feel their love.
The next item I’d like you to picture is a lighthouse. See the light emanating from the top of the structure at the ocean’s edge where the sea meets the land, and remember its primary purpose: To help guide sailors and boaters home. Is there somebody in your life that helps guide you home? To your authentic self? To the truth of who you are? To the person that you’re meant to be? To the path that you’re meant to be on? Picture that person now and consider the direction that they’re encouraging you to head in.
The last item I’d like you to picture is a disco ball. See the light bouncing off of it, think of the energy in the room where you might find this unique object, maybe you hear your favorite song playing. Is there somebody in your life that reminds you of a disco ball? Somebody that shows up with the fun, loving energy wherever they are, wherever they go? Picture that person now and consider how they are encouraging you to live and love.
Gently float open your eyes.
Today I’d like to share a story with you about a student of mine. His name was Daniel. I met Daniel the very first year I was a classroom teacher. I had no experience as a theology teacher in an all-boys prep school, and somehow this little guy, this 103-pound wrestler, he became more of a teacher to me than a student, because he showed me and everybody in the school building how to shine their love and their light by being an example of how it’s done.
You see, the same year that I met this little guy was the same year that I was cut from the NFL. Felt like a little bit of my light had been taken from me when the Baltimore Ravens told me I can no longer be their quarterback. I had trained with them all summer, I felt like a kid in Disney, I was playing and competing with some of my childhood heroes in stadiums that I had only visited as a fan.
Playing in the NFL was an incredible experience, but at the end of the summer, a week before our first game, on the last day of cuts, I was released. And I had to return home to New Jersey to figure out a new career. I had graduated from Georgetown University with the degree in psychology, so I guessed I could teach that, but I was hired at an all-boys prep school to coach football and teach theology. It was kind of like a life course for the incoming freshmen. Gave me the opportunity to teach the guys the importance of being kind, caring and thoughtful. It really healed my broken heart.
I loved teaching as much as I loved playing football. And that’s where I met Daniel. He came into my classroom like a little disco ball. He had an energy and a light about him that everybody wanted to be around. Daniel connected with everybody in the school. I used to love watching him walk the hallways. His smile was reflected back to him in every corner. Athletes, band guys, cool guys, smart guys, teachers and coaches, all felt the love of this pint-sized, 103-pound wrestler.
People loved Daniel because he was free. He was free to be himself, and most of us know how difficult that can be. I remember when Daniel found out it was my birthday during his freshman year. He took it upon himself to create a homemade birthday card for me. He even taped a Starburst candy and a pack of Wrigley’s gum to the inside. He presented it to me in front of the class. Daniel was redefining cool, and he made it cool to be thoughtful, caring and kind, and his classmates loved him for it.
It was in this way that our brotherly bond began. And it was during his sophomore year that Daniel started to campaign for me to date his older cousin Lia, so that we could officially be family. He even brought her to a wrestling match one weekend. I was only there with about one other person, and Daniel had about 15 relatives cheering him on that night. It was a beautiful night.