My vocation is multi faceted. It often starts in the mornings at the coffee shop I opened in Austin. It’s on 5th Street, just east of downtown, where I first opened the café. Eight years ago it was the ghetto, or the “barrio.” Now it is the place to be. When I first moved to Austin from San Francisco people told us “not to go east of I-35,” so that is where we went. The shoe store I founded and operated in the Mission in San Francisco was a similar neighborhood. Drugs, gangs, prostitutes, projects…soon to “evolve” into the “hipster” part of the city, after the creatives began moving that direction because it was the only affordable neighborhood left.
From my café I head further east to my shoe company’s showroom—it is called HELM Boots. I’ve kept my passion for shoes and I reignited that fire 3+ years ago when the coffee shop took flight. What my businesses have in common and where my passion lies is in people. Not necessarily or limited to the “community,” although that is where and what I am involved in: daily interactions with the denizens of my surroundings. But my work also calls for travel, and in most settings across the globe the same social standard for me remains true: I love people. Genuinely. It’s hard and rare (not impossible—but nearly) for me to find someone I cannot care about—to relate to—and someone with whom I ultimately want to have some sort of depth in a relationship beyond a business handshake.
Something tangible, almost audible, happened in my heart in my early 20’s, not long after I started my shoe store in the Mission in San Francisco, and since then I have realized that it has always been there, even since I was a child. It was just for many years hidden, masked, and concealed.
It is, for me, the need to live from my heart.
It is the blending and the melding of the passions in my heart bleeding into the work of my hands. I cannot explain it much further than this. Nearly everyone I come in contact with—whether customers in my coffee shops or the shoe showroom, or workers in factories in the Eastern U.S. and in Istanbul, to the people in the stores I visit that carry our shoes—my heart is there with those whom I am with. And it is nearly tangible and nearly audible. It is a factor of having been in the dark, a derivative of having denied myself. It is a choice to dig for the light and to accept and build upon what God has put inside of me and made me to be.
In Mark 12:30 Jesus tells us the greatest commandment (what is most important to him) is that we love God with our hearts and the second is that we love our neighbor as ourselves.
The way Jesus showed love to people was by first being present with them. His heart was open to them, not guarded or concealed. When we are present with people in all of our dealings, day to day, we are available for God’s spirit to flow through us. The only way I succeed and the only way my operations and my vocation are formidable is by living from my heart. Because this is the gift that God gave me…in His own image.