"A warm engaging novel, rich in messages of love, forgiveness, joy, and kindness."
-Ted Kuntz: Psychotherapist, Inspirational Speaker and Author of Peace Begins with Me. www.peacebeginswithme.ca
"A refreshing and inspiring read! Although heartrending at times, you will laugh and wonder as you see that by reaching outward, inward and upward-releasing shame, doubt and fear-love and prosperity are what boomerang back."
-Taslim Jaffer: Speaker and Author of Let ME Out! Blog. www.letmeoutcreative.com
"A story showing human frailty and successful recovery, giving the reader hope and the tools to carve a magnificent future."
-Rev. Barbara Leonard: Sr. Minister, Balance Point Inner Garden Online Chapel. www.inner-garden.com
"I wish this book were available when I hit 'Brock bottom' at age twenty-three. I'd have tucked it in my knapsack during my ten thousand mile bicycle tour seeding kindness across North America."
-Brock Tully: Kindness Ambassador, Speaker and Founder of the World Kindness Concert. www.brocktully.com
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Read an Excerpt
THE KINDNESS AMBASSADOR AND THE SUGARHOLIC PROSECUTOR13 KEYS TO LIVING THE LIFE YOU ARE MEANT TO LOVE
By JOYCE M. ROSS
Balboa PressCopyright © 2013 Kindness Is Key Training Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneKindness Key # 1
* * *
"Live in harmony within: mind, heart and soul." Joyce M. Ross
Brandon Ashton stepped out of the funeral of his lifelong friend Terry Richards and into the soggy fall day. Disoriented and sullen, he fished in his pocket for his cell phone and turned it on. No calls. One text from his sister announcing that he had another niece: five-pound, six-ounce baby Gabriela.
Happy for his sister but disappointed for himself, he typed his return message: Congratulations! I'll bet she's as pretty as you. See you tonight. Having been hoping for a nephew, stuffing the phone back in his pocket he consoled himself with the adage that all children were a gift. Not that he'd know. He didn't have kids. An incredibly fat cat and a mangy dog with two legs in heaven were his immediate family.
Dropping his briefcase to the sidewalk, he waved both arms at an oncoming taxi, muttering obscenities when he saw that it already had a fare. Flipping the collar of his overcoat upward, he cursed the insouciant young forecaster who'd predicted sunshine. Vancouver's weather was bloody unpredictable. With mountains for a skyline and the Pacific at its feet, one might as well toss a coin as to whether to wear sunglasses or tote an umbrella. In the future, he'd carry both.
"Do you have far to go?"
Brandon jerked his head toward the sultry voice. Standing behind his left shoulder was a gorgeous woman with extraordinarily blue irises that he guessed were the result of colored contact lenses.
"Not far," he shouted above the downpour gurgling its way into a nearby drain. Ten blocks wasn't far, but it would seem like a thousand miles in this deluge. Going green by walking, biking or busing to work might be one of his dumbest ideas yet.
"Which way?" She glanced to her left and right as she bobbed her golf-sized yellow umbrella. "I'll walk with you." She smiled cheerily. "I carry my own sunshine."
"North." Brandon had no doubt that he was gawking as he scrutinized the purple-coated, midsized, middle-aged auburn beauty. Was she a lunatic or a Good Samaritan? Maybe she was like one of those homeless people who cleaned your car windshield while you were stopped at a light, then expected a handout.
Standing straighter and with her arm stretched skyward, Miss Sunshine positioned her umbrella so that it covered them both. "I saw you at the funeral."
Relieved that she wasn't just some crazy who earned her living escorting rain-drenched citizens to their destinations, he wondered if she'd also seen him sobbing his foolish head off. She hadn't been in the front rows, or he'd have noticed her. "You knew Terry?"
"I know his sister Dee. We met at a conference." She extended her free hand. "Joycelynn Rose."
"Brandon Ashton." Shivering as he shook her hand, he realized that he was soaking wet and likely looked as scruffy as his Heinz 57 mutt. Hopefully he didn't smell as bad.
She took a small step forward, indicating that she wanted to get moving. "Your briefcase."
Stooping to pick it up, he bumped into Joycelynn, knocking the umbrella out of her hand and onto the sidewalk. "Sorry," he muttered, retrieving her portable sunshine, then his briefcase. Feeling like a dumb ass, in his mind's ear he heard Terry mocking him from beyond, Not much of a ladies' man, are you, Bud?
Ignoring his clumsy blunder, Joycelynn asked, "Don't you think we're rather spoiled living in Vancouver?"
The rain dripping from his nose, he contemplated debating her point. It was November, the first of four or five depressing months of grey skies and incessant rain. Except for rare times like today, which was supposed to be sunny and wasn't, winter in Vancouver was miserably dull. Not wanting to spoil her delusion of good fortune, he rolled his shoulders and said, "I don't think about it much."
"What do you think about?" Her curious blue eyes locked on his as though what he was about to say would be the most important thing she would hear today.
"Mostly work." His answer sounded trivial to him and likely lame to her.
"What do you do?"
"I'm a lawyer." He didn't elaborate. A lot of people detested lawyers, especially ones in his area of law. He couldn't count the number of times he'd been referred to as a bottom feeder, bastard or scumbag.
"What kind of law do you practice?"
Head tilted, her gaze uncomfortably intense, she awaited his answer with the attentiveness of a newly appointed judge. "I'm a crown prosecutor," he supplied, wondering if her reply would be a disapproving I see. She was a classy looking babe, but many well-to-do families were peppered with embezzlement, inside trading or tax fraud.
She continued studying him, her gentle manner reminding him of a picture he'd seen of Mother Teresa holding an orphaned baby. "You obviously like what you do, if that's what you think about all the time."
"I guess." Becoming more chilled by the minute, he shuddered. If they didn't soon start walking, he'd freeze to death. What would be even better was something hot to drink. "There's a Starbucks at the corner. Do you have time for a cup of coffee?" he asked, hoping that she did. He could use the company, and if the rain didn't let up he might still need her portable sunshine service.
"Coffee sounds great," she answered, seemingly delighted. "You must be cold."
"Frozen!" He considered offering to hold her umbrella, but fearing his chivalry might not be welcomed, he didn't. "What do you do for a living?" he asked as they headed toward the coffee bar.
"I'm a teacher."
"What do you teach?" Noting her flawless skin, he wondered if it was as soft as it appeared, and whether she was married or had a boyfriend. He'd earlier noticed that she wasn't wearing a ring, but that really told him nothing. For a fleeting moment he pondered what she might be like in bed, but having just left their mutual friend's funeral, his guilt kicked into overdrive. Instead, he pictured her in front of a blackboard.
"Kindness," she chirped as though it were an occupation one heard about every day. "Love in action."
Her captivating eyes roamed his face, then the space above and around his head. Knowing his hair was a mess, he shoved his fingers through it. Kindness. Love in action. Things were falling into place. On one of his many visits to see his dying friend, Terry had mentioned that his sister had befriended a kindness guru. This must be her! "You're the writer." Her career added a new dimension to her appeal. She and her partner taught writing, orchestrated inspirational anthologies and had written a couple of novels. Every book they published made the best sellers list. Until recently, Joycelynn had also run singles dances, which he remembered because Terry had jokingly suggested that might be the place where Brandon could find an endless supply of foxes in high heels.
"Guilty as charged." She laughed.
He was suddenly glad he'd booked the day off. Knowing he might need the distraction of work he'd brought along his briefcase, but it was his choice as to whether he went into the office. Terry's death, though expected and a merciful escape from suffering for his best friend, pummeled Brandon into a dark depression he didn't have the will to fight. Hearing Joycelynn's uplifting laugh ignited a reminiscent spark and he smiled. "We kicked up a lot of hell in our younger days." Chortling, he added, "I think our parents worried we'd end up in jail."
"Dee told me some of the stories." Joycelynn's laughter subsided, but her grin remained. "I think she referred to you as hooligans."
"Hooligans!" Recalling how Terry often joked that his sister was born with her halo attached, Brandon roared. "We weren't exactly hooligans, but we did get into our fair share of trouble."
"I don't know," Joycelynn teased, "I think being arrested for trying to outrun one of Vancouver's first female police officers is a bit hooliganish."
"Dee told you that story?" He roared louder. "I'm now guilty as charged." Visions played through his mind of himself and Terry trying to run full steam when they were laughing so hard they could barely stand. "We would've gotten away, if it weren't for her quick-witted partner sticking his leg out from behind a tree and toppling poor Terry, then me. The next thing I knew, we were sitting in the back of a cruiser with our hands cuffed."
"Why were you running away? What had you done?"
"We had a few beers that made us stupidly decide it would be fun to knock over a few garbage cans in Stanley Park."
"Serious stuff." Joycelynn feigned a frown as they reached Starbucks and he held the door.
"Serious enough to get us six months of probation and a hundred hours of community service work."
"Picking up garbage, no doubt?"
"Yeah," he answered absentmindedly, thinking that the incident had been more pivotal in his best friend's life than the judge had likely intended. Pulling out the chair facing the window, he waited for Joycelynn to sit in it before asking, "What can I get you?"
"A vanilla latte, please. I keep telling myself they're going to clog my arteries and be the death of me, yet I keep drinking them."
Ignoring the kick to his gut at the mention of death, Brandon brushed his bangs off his forehead while muttering, "We all have our vices."
While Joycelynn waited, she glanced out the window and spotted a small boy making friends with an English Lab puppy. They looked so cute together, the dog's guardian and the boy's mother smiling as the two young ones exchanged licks and hugs. The scene was a far cry from the somber one at the chapel. She'd seen Brandon sobbing in the front row, and thanks to Dee's stories, had a good idea about who he was before she offered to share her umbrella.
"I'm addicted to all things sweet," Brandon quipped as he plopped a gigantic pastry and two plastic forks on the table. "I eat one of these every day, and then after work, I run five miles to wear it off." Grinning, he placed her vanilla latte in front of her and his coffee on the opposite side.
"Yet, you're willing to share," she teased. "I guess if I eat half of this, you'll only have to run two and a half miles tonight."
"That would be the math." He sat across from her. "Tell me more about being a kindness guru." Forking off a chunk of the pastry, he popped it into his mouth.
"I'm not a guru, I'm an ambassador. I seed kindness." She lifted her cup and inhaled the sweet vanilla aroma. Too hot to drink, she placed it back on the table and waited while Brandon chewed. Dee was dead-on. The man was drool-on-your-shoes gorgeous. Clear vivid green eyes. Killer smile. Cocky confidence. Was the rest of what she said true, too?
"Love in action," he repeated the phrase she'd used earlier. "How does one go about teaching kindness?"
"By encouraging people to be kind to themselves, and to lead by being the example. As Gandhi said: 'Be the change you wish to see in the world.'"
"It sounds more as though you're teaching people to be selfish," he commented. Then as if realizing his remark sounded arrogant, he expanded, "I mean, isn't the whole concept of kindness about being selfless and thinking of others first?"
"It is." Joycelynn nodded. "My KiK mission partner, Elizabeth, and I believe that self-kindness is the catalyst for other-kindness. Our premise is that when we are kind to ourselves personally, professionally and spiritually, we will naturally be kind to others."
"Spiritually!" Brandon's brow shot upward. "I'm not much for religion." He dumped three packets of sugar into his coffee. "There's too much suffering in this world for me to believe there's a God."
"Are you referring to Terry's battle with colon cancer?" she softly asked, her heart aching for him.
"Not just Terry. Cancer also took out my grandmother. All over the globe kids are starving to death." He wiped his mouth before crumpling his napkin and tossing it on the table. "The news is filled with stories about people killing each other because of territorial claims or differing religious beliefs. How can anyone believe in a loving Creator?"
"What do you believe in?" Joycelynn asked, ignoring his contemptuous tone and expression. Having just lost his best friend, it was understandable that Brandon was angry with Creation.
"My parents are devout churchgoers. When I was young, there was a lot of talk about Judgment Day and fearing God. Not my favorite topics."
"Don't you wonder about your soul's origin or life after death?" she asked, leaning forward and resting her forearms on the table.
"Nope! I think that we're born and then we die."
Brandon's cynical atheism didn't jibe with Dee's depiction of him as a holy godsend, whose quick laughter and attentive care made her brother's last days happier. "If you don't believe in a divinely intentioned universe, then what do you imagine motivates one person toward healing and kindness, and another toward hurting and criminality?"
"Free will, I guess." He grimaced, as though mentally berating himself for making a religious reference. "What I meant to say is that some people are flawed from birth. Perhaps some criminality is due to poor parenting, though that's debatable." Arms crossed, jaw jutted, he glowered at her.
More amused than intimidated by his assertive body language, she clamped her arms one over the other and glared back at him. "I can agree with your unfortunate parenting observation."
"At least we agree on something," he returned with a smirk.
Sitting upright, Joycelynn unlocked her arms. "When I was younger, I worked at Victoria's Youth Detention Center. Kids came in for everything from theft to murder. Many of them were raised in families where physical, emotional or sexual abuse was a common occurrence. Several of their parents were alcoholics or drug addicts."
Brandon's open palm jerked traffic cop forward. "If you're selling the it's-the-parents'-fault ideology, I'm not buying. There are many law abiding citizens who come from truly outrageous homes. Once we hit eighteen, we make our own choices."
"Choices with their roots in various advantages and disadvantages," she returned. "I can't imagine a psychopath being the byproduct of truly loving parents."
"Unless he or she was born mentally ill."
"That's true. People come into this world in all kinds of circumstances. Some are born into loving homes in fruitful nations; others into countries so poor that parenting takes a backseat to providing basic necessities. Some children are born healthy and others disabled." Saddened as she glanced out the window and saw that the puppy and boy were gone, she finished by asking, "Why do you think that is?"
"Why do I think what is?" Brandon's gaze drifted toward where Joycelynn had glanced, then back at her.
"Why do you think each person in this world is so unique? When you consider the various defining realmsphysical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, social, economic, and politicalhumans are as varied as they are plentiful."
"You've obviously thought about it more than I have. You tell me!"
"I believe we're born into the exact circumstances that we are meant to be born into, and that there is a divine reason for each individual's birth, life and death. As some philosophers have suggested, I think that we are spiritual beings having human experiences, rather than human beings having spiritual experiences."
"Religion, again!" Brandon guffawed, stirring his coffee excitedly.
"I'm talking about spirituality, not religion."
"What's the difference? Same cloak, different color."
"Not really, though they are married through belief in a higher power."
"I rest my case. Next topic!"
"You can rest all you want, but spirituality isn't a particular dogma. It's about the spirit-self's individual relationship with our originating Source. What we teach in our Kindness is Key courses is that when you live in harmony withinmind, heart and soulyou're aligned with your intended purpose-path, and will naturally prosper financially, spiritually and personally. That's not religion. It's common sense."
Glee shadowed with apprehension flashed across his face before he said, "You might have misread your own purpose-path. With your debating skills, you'd be a fantastic lawyer."
"Thanks ... I think." Joycelynn blushed. She wanted to help him deal with his loss by exploring the possibility of a divine rationale for human suffering. Brandon, however, seemed stuck in the thrill of courtroom style deliberation. "I'm beginning to wonder if I'm just wasting my time and yours by going on about my spiritual beliefs," she confessed, sounding more irritated than intended.
"Then I'll tell you what I believe," Brandon said, his tone triumphant, his expression smug. "I think our primary purpose on earth is to procreate. Everything on the planet just wants to reproduce and keep their species going."
Excerpted from THE KINDNESS AMBASSADOR AND THE SUGARHOLIC PROSECUTOR by JOYCE M. ROSS Copyright © 2013 by Kindness Is Key Training Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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