First off, this is not a love letter or any sort of effort to rekindle old flames. What we had together in Santa Monica in the late 70s—holding hands during the scary scenes of The Red Balloon, sharing pink lemonade—was special. There’s no denying that. But that was kindergarten. A lot has happened since then. For instance, we’re both married with kids. So, a moment to reminisce and we’ll move on.
Also, this isn’t a rant about our acting careers having panned out differently.
While you went on to win Golden Globes and Oscars, I never made it past being an extra in Spielberg’s E.T. That was back in the fourth grade. Maybe I was too shy for the limelight. I don’t know. After those three days of work in 1981—and all the canned pop a boy could hope for—I turned my back on Hollywood and became just another brainy Asian kid from Woodland Hills.
But it’s not like I didn’t do anything. I refined my dodge ball skills at Balboa. I joined the chess club. I read The Hobbit. I played Mattel Classic Football relentlessly on the long bus rides to school.
And then, still a child, just 17, I lied about my asthma (recruiter’s advice) and joined the Army.
Which brings me to the point of this letter—Listening Horse.
Listening Horse is a horse therapy program based in Santa Fe, New Mexico that helps our military veterans and others reconnect with their spirit, their humanity and their will to live in the aftermath of trauma.
Wounded and struggling veterans often rely on drugs (prescription or otherwise) and destructive behavior to manage their conditions and escape their pain and anguish. Listening Horse provides an alternative, known informally as the “Third Herd Way.” (The term “third herd” comes from the practice of military units referring to their third platoon as “third herd,” a term meant to evoke the sense of unity, trust, and acceptance often present in a platoon of close-knit soldiers.)
The “Third Herd Way” recognizes principles long understood by Native Peoples but largely overlooked in the Western world: that animals inhabit a world that has grown increasingly apart from our own, as we have become increasingly denatured through our modern lifestyles. For the “Third Herd Way” to work, the world of horses must be recognized as no less precious than our own, with their sense of reality just as viable as our own, etc.
Listening Horse is predicated on the belief that we can heal ourselves through persistently courting this beautiful and alternate dimension of the animal/herd experience, which is grounded in the present moment. To this end, every veteran is expected to approach the horse on the horse’s terms. By doing so, the veteran begins to enter the reality of the horse and actively form a meaningful bond with them.
The experience of this bond may result in personal transformation. For some, it may be the first time they are assisted into the saddle of a horse they have bonded with, and realize the exhilaration of doing something they never thought possible. For others, it may be the first time they ride bareback with the reins slack in the hands, and feel an absolute sense of oneness with the horse, grounded in the present moment and filled with trust. It is here in this dimension that lasting healing may occur.
Because Listening Horse helped me following my return from Iraq, I have been doing what I can to help Listening Horse. I contribute the cost of four bales of hay monthly and I help out with fundraisers, which are usually garage sale events. I am also running the 17-mile Imogene Pass Run on September 8 from Ouray to Telluride with my service dog, Abigail, in an effort to raise additional funds. Gus, the director of Listening Horse, doesn’t like to accept help, but he knows he needs it for the program to survive. Listening Horse is free to participants, and relies on volunteer contributions.
Just to be clear, you are the first celebrity classmate I am approaching about helping out with Listening Horse.
Here’s what I am hoping you and your family can decide on:
An annual tax-deductible contribution in perpetuity as long as Listening Horse exists and as long as the hardworking four-legged band members of Listening Horse (now comprised of Promise, Zorro, Sugar, Doc and Jack) live on. The hope for the program is $50,000 a year.
Listening Horse can be found on the web at listeninghorse.org and on Facebook at facebook.com/Listening Horse. For more information, the secretary of Listening Horse, Flannery Davis, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In closing, I know that many worthy organizations compete for your attention. Listening Horse does not want everyone’s attention. It wants to remain small and special. With your help, it can.
With kind regard,
P.S. E moved to Tokyo so we’re all spread out now ;-)