I guess you could say "Wishes of the Soul" came to life in the most unusual way.
I was sitting, quietly, in the ready room, some venues call it the greenroom, awaiting my call to the speaker's platform where I was to deliver the keynote speech at a national trade association convention.
As is the case with the majority of professional speakers I know, before I speak to an audience, I like to remove myself from the main flow of activity.
I go somewhere quiet, where I can meditate and pray, collect my thoughts, and tame the butterflies in my stomach.
That evening as I prayed, the normal peacefulness I've come to expect was overtaken by a flurry of thoughts and images.
The images seemed to come at me all at once, but at the same time, they were crystal clear.
I hurriedly grabbed my pen and the only thing I had handy to write on, a lunch-stained paper napkin, and scratched out the words that would eventually become Wishes of the Soul.
A knock on the door summoned me to the stage, and, in my rush, I thoughtlessly stuffed the paper napkin I had been writing on into the breast pocket of my charcoal-gray pinstriped suit and promptly forgot about the whole episode...
It wasn't until about one month and countless travel miles later that I reached into my garment bag, pulled out that same gray suit, and noticed something very odd.
A small plastic bag, containing the prose-laden napkin I had hastily stuffed away weeks before, was pinned to the inside lapel of the suit jacket.
Apparently, Roman, my drycleaner, thought this nasty ol' napkin was something important enough to put safely away for me.
As I studied what I had written, I was struck by an eerie feeling that can only be described as the byproduct of a chance encounter between discovery and deja vu. It was as if I were reading those words, again, for the first time.
Unconsciously, I began reading aloud. I read, and read, and reread the cryptic words. Midway through my third reading, I noticed tears welling up in my eyes.
I began to feel a powerful presence in the room with me- a feeling that grew stronger with every word. The words on that napkin seemed to have a life of their own. It was as if the spirit of those words were somehow calling out to my spirit in a voice that both confronted and comforted.
There was a searing sharpness to the words as I read them- the kind that slices right through you, like a hot knife through butter, and yet at the same time, on some other level, a profound healing was taking place within me.
I was left trembling, with a warm feeling. It was as though someone had just wrapped their arms around me, held me close, and whispered into my ear, telling me that everything I was struggling with was, somehow, going to be okay...
A few weeks after the hotel room episode, I stuck a copy of the words I had written on that fateful October day into a few holiday cards I was sending to friends and business associates. And if you were to hold a gun to my head, I still couldn't tell you why I did it. But I can say that at the time, it seemed to be a meaningless exercise because as soon as I dropped the cards into the mailbox, I gave the matter no further thought.
By month's end, the outpouring of emotion-filled notes and letters I received in response to the wishes poem took me by surprise. Countless requests for copies of the poem soon flooded our office mailbox, and over the years, "Wishes of the Soul" has remained the most requested piece of any I have written.
I've often wondered why this particular piece of writing seemed to touch so many different kinds of people in so many different kinds of ways, and I've marveled at how it seems to soothe each reader's soul.
I soon began experimenting with the poem, reciting it for audiences as I closed my keynote speeches. I've lost track of the number of times I've stood in awe, watching the words wash a wave of peace and calmness over an entire room. How could mere words have such power? I often thought.
Then one day, I was sitting on a park bench outside the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, Massachusetts, with a dear friend, a friend whose name you'd recognize instantly. We each had a short break in our speaking schedules and decided to duck outside and visit with one another for a while. I shared my tuna salad sandwich with him and he shared some nuggets of wisdom with me.
I asked my friend why he thought the words of the wishes poem seemed to affect so many people in the way it did. How could simple words have such power? He reminded me of the words of Saint John, who wrote: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
... "The Word was God."
His explanation hit me like a sucker punch. Could it be that God, for reasons beyond any logical explanation, had chosen to inhabit the words of this simple poem? And, if that were true, why would God choose these words- the ones I had written on the page? After all, I'm just a guy- a nobody from nowhere.
As I pondered my friend's explanation, I recalled the feeling that came over me in that hotel room- like I was reading the words for the very first time, as if they were someone else's. I remembered the spirit of calmness and peace that seemed to descend upon me, and the powerful presence I felt in the room that day. I must confess, the same feeling comes over me each and every time I read the words of the "Wishes" poem. It's an odd feeling- really hard to describe. I know that I was the one who wrote the words and yet, there is a strange unfamiliarity surrounding them.
For a number of years, friends and family, colleagues and clients, along with my beautiful bride, have all tried to convince me of the majestic healing power inherent in the simple words of "Wishes of the Soul," and they've all urged me to bring the work to the world. Alas, having far more important things on my plate, I did my best to avoid the issue.
As you can see, I'm no smarter than the average bear when it comes to listening to valuable advice. But if you whack me on the side of the head long and hard enough, I finally get the message.
So, despite my best efforts to avoid the issue, I finally acquiesced to the many years of prodding, coaxing and nagging and made a decision to breathe life into "Wishes of the Soul."
However, I vowed that if we were going to do this, we were going to do it right. So, I gathered together a select group of highly gifted and talented artists- many of whom I'm honored to know and work with- and challenged each of them to add their own soul to the project. The beautifully illustrated, inspirational gift book and its companion music CD are the result of that collaboration. And considering the hurdles we had to overcome in order to bring it to you, the reality of our dream is nothing short of miraculous. It, stands as a living testimony to what can be accomplished when kindred spirits unite on the twisted and rocky path of life.
My prayerful hope is that these simple words and powerful music will somehow work to unite your reality with your dreams, that they will allow the God of the universe to come into closer fellowship with you through the spirit He has placed within each of us.
And if the spirit moves you, we hope you'll buy a copy of our little book for yourself, and an additional copy for someone you care about.
And as for the words themselves- you may never recognize the writer in a crowded airport, but I've got a feeling you'll know the author instantly.
Alexander J. Berardi-- New York 2006