The throngs of excited travelers moved quickly past us as they dragged their luggage and children along in search of their departure gates. We were in the Frankfurt airport with a long layover waiting for our connecting flight to Rome, and then on to Assisi. We would be spending the next month in Assisi, sharing with our Ananda spiritual family as well as with devotees from all over Europe.

While we waited for our flight, we were frantically studying Italian so that we might have some semblance of facility to converse with our friends. Intently focused as we were, we were surprised when a man suddenly stood before us. He impressed us with the clear, strong energy which shone in his eyes and in the radiance of his smile.

“I’ve been watching you from across the room,” he said, “and when I saw your beautiful smiles, I just had to come over to talk with you.”

He began asking us about our lives, and strangely it felt like we were old friends, picking up where we had left off at some other time. He was sincerely interested when we told him about Ananda, the path that we follow, and how we came to dedicate our lives to a spiritual search.

Pierre (our new/old friend) was an American, but he’d been living abroad for the past fifteen years serving as head basketball coach at the Tony Parker Academy, one of the finest athletic academies in Lyon, France. “We coach people from all walks of life—from undefeated pro teams, to high school kids looking for a career in basketball, to people who simply need help and encouragement,” he told us.

He listened thoughtfully as we explained how we teach meditation to help people find their own highest potential. Then he looked at us intently, and said, “That’s what I do, too, but in a different way. I’ll tell you a story about how I work with people.”

And this is the story he shared. Pierre had been working with a group of autistic children, using basketball to help them develop self-confidence. The children loved coming to his class, where they were learning how to overcome fears and limitations. All of them had improved in their skills except for one little girl, who remained withdrawn and unable to shoot a basket.

In the gymnasium where they practiced, the front row was an impressive stretch of plush, red-velvet seats which were reserved for VIPs. Pierre had been told by his boss not to let the children use these seats, so as to keep them pristine for the “very important people.”

But seeing how hard the kids had worked and how much they had achieved, he said to them at their last class, “If you can make a basket, then you can sit in one of those red-velvet seats.”

No sooner had he said this than he realized he had made a terrible mistake. The withdrawn girl would not be able to make a basket, and she would feel even more alienated from the others. One by one each child went to the free-throw line, and one by one they each made a basket. Bursting with happiness, they took a seat in one of the fancy chairs.

Finally it was the turn of the special child. She tried several times and failed. Then Pierre took the ball from her, and said, “Now close your eyes, and see yourself making a basket.” After a short time, he asked her, “Did you make it?” “No,” was her reply.

“Try again,” he encouraged her. “Did you make it now?” Still “no.” After repeating this several more times, she finally was able to say with amazement, “I made it!”

Only then did Pierre hand her the ball, and for the first time in her young life, the girl made a basket. The whole class cheered jubilantly for her, and she took her place in one of the special seats—truly a VIP.

if you can see it you can do it

After sharing this story, Pierre looked at us deeply and said, “Tell the people that you teach that if they can see it, they can do it.”

So, my friends, we share Pierre’s love and wisdom with you. No matter how impossible the search for God may seem at times, if you see your soul embraced in His light with enough concentration and aspiration, you will be able to achieve that which you most ardently seek.

With joy and love from Assisi,

Nayaswami Devi