Four years ago I graduated from community college with a degree in audio production. I was living in Longview, WA and was deeply in love with a girl named Alicia. There is very little work in that area for someone of my expertise, and so I continued working a dead end job at Wal Mart. Unsure of what to do and how to achieve my goal of becoming an audio engineer, I decided to join the Army. After getting sworn in I asked Alicia to marry me and she said yes. It was August 2011. We decided to wait to get married until after my training ended.
The months went by quickly, and before I knew it I was shipped off to Fort Benning, GA where I would go through the gas chamber. I would crawl through the mud for hours, and learn how to kill another human being. I went through an intense amount of stress. I once ran my fastest 2 mile in my life with pneumonia. All of my platoon mates hated me and bullied me, until finally I struck out at one of them. And at the end of basic I watched all these men graduate while I waited to get shipped home.
I came back very depressed, and after another month Alicia broke up with me. We continued to talk for a while. I returned to my job at Wal Mart grudgingly. I stopped talking to Alicia when I caught her in a lie she'd told me. I never spoke to her again for three years.
One day, two years later I took an unpaid audio engineering internship in Florida. I packed my bags, gave my 2 weeks notice and flew out to start a new life for myself. While working at Florida Studio Theater I met my good friend Jason Cannon who told me about The Giving Keys. I also met a girl named Stacey who I dated for a few months.
Last September I got a call from Feld Entertainment, and got asked if I wanted to tour year round with the Ringling Bros circus. Inside I didn't want to leave Florida or Stacey. But I had to take the job to advance my career. Stacey and I endured a rather harsh breakup 2 months later. I was in Rochester, NY.
I started suffering a lot of anxiety from both the stress of living on the road and the breakup with Stacey. So I ordered my own Giving Key, with the word "Peace" inscribed on it. I've taken it with me to more cities than I can count since. Birmingham, Brooklyn, Newark, Philadelphia, and so many more! It helped me realize that finding peace in life is not circumstantial. And what I mean is that peace can be found in all areas of life. It doesn't depend upon your situation, it depends upon how you handle your situation.
This week we are in Norfolk, VA and yesterday I got a text from a number I didn't recognize, but I recognized the area code right away as being from Washington. The text read "Is this Ben?" I responded and it turned out to be Alicia. She was texting to tell me her older brother had died. He was missing from work for 2 days and she went to check up on him and found him hanging from the rafters of his house. I was very saddened and distraught to hear this.
We talked for a little bit. She didn't really expect me to answer at all, but it meant a lot that I did. I asked for her mailing address and mailed her my key. She definitely needs it more than I do. I never expected it to happen like this. And I know that paying it forward has definitely helped bring me some peace in my waking life. Thank you for helping me find this amazing gift.