Years ago, not long before they stopped touring, I went to Grateful Dead show at RFK stadium outside D.C.
For the record (so to speak), I couldn’t sing along to a single Grateful Dead song.
It was the concept and community that intrigued me. I wanted to see them before they stopped touring.
A Deadhead colleague gave me the info I needed to get tickets.
Here’s the image that stays with me from that day:
After walking through the carnival midway-meets hippie market in the parking lot, we headed for the gate.
A skinny, young guy looking every inch like your classic “long haired hippie” from the Summer of Love was squatting, Asian style holding a sign fashioned from a cardboard box top. On it, he'd scratched out:
“I Need a 21st birthday Miracle.”
I gave my friend a look that asked, “What's that mean?”
He replied, “I need a Miracle is Dead song. He needs a ticket.”
To this day, I wish I had handed him my ticket and left.
None of the reasons I went to the concert panned out. Despite the relaxed, warm community. I felt like a tourist.
Many years later at a Buddhist Sangha, I met a young woman who was apprenticing to become a Buddhist nun.
On kitchen duty together one day, she told me this story as we stood over the industrial metal sink washing dishes. "I was 18-years-old and I got my EMT certification so I could join ski patrol. Next thing you know I'm in my last year of medical school.
The summer before my final year, I went to India.... and I never went back to medical school. Now I'm here." When she said, "Now I'm here," she beamed and seemed happy in a way I'd rarely seen in anyone. It must have been stunningly difficult walk away from medical school and all those expectations of other people, but she did and I don't know if I've ever been in the presence of someone more at peace with a choice. There's a lot to be said for not stopping until you find what meets your expectations.
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