I received a phone call this morning from my friend Chris from the Bay Area, CA. He didn’t sound as perky as usual. He didn’t give me time to guess. He proceeded to tell me that he is in tears and crying like a baby. He dropped his daughter to college today and couldn’t stop crying. He told me that I’m the only one who can relate to him since I did the same with my son a few months ago.
My son is a freshman in College. It was August 19th when we dropped him to his dorm room at Biola university in Southern California. Although it is only 30 miles away from our home, it was a big deal for us. Regardless of how far he is from us, It is a mile stone in our life. Our first baby is leaving home. He is gone. Home is not the same. Something is missing. Someone is missing. Although he spent many days in his room on his phone the entire Senior year in high school, but he was home. I knew he was home.
The room is empty now. He is gone. He is on his own. The University didn’t make it any easier on us. It gave us a day to spend preparing his dorm room. His mom bought enough stuff to furnish a 3-story hotel. There was just enough room to sleep and to walk from the bed to the door. He needed a 4-car garage to store all the stuff his mom bought him. I envy her. She showed her love and emotions by preparing his room and shopping with him. I didn’t know how to show mine. I showed my love by repeating the statement: “Here’s a check for the tuition, Here’s a credit card to use in an emergency. Here spending money. Call me before you run out.” It was all monetary. I remembered the song, Money can’t buy me love by the Beatles but it can hopefully express it!
The next day, the school did a communion night. That’s when you break bread with your child, pray for them and let them go. How terrible and mean is that? I think the school wanted to prove that parents like me who don’t cry, will cry that day.
Thousands of parents were praying and crying with their kids. It looked like a mass funeral. Each family crying for their loved one. Girls hugging their dads while moms are standing close by wondering where they went wrong; Boys hugging their moms while dads stood there trying to hold the tears.
We said our goodbyes and we thought it was over, but the emotional roller-coaster just began.
We got in the car and drove away. It was quiet in the backseat. John is not fighting or dancing with his sisters. A tear came down my cheek. It felt like returning a leased car that you had for a long time and then…..walking home.
That is what our kids are. A leased car we got from the Dealer Himself, God. He blessed us and allowed us to lease them: take care of them, maintain them, feed them, protect them and wash them, but they are still His. It is His job to protect them, to guard them and do for them what we cannot do ourselves as parents.
After having the leased car for a while, we forget that it is not ours. That we need to return it someday. Someone else will lease them after that. Their spouses.
I wish it was easier. I wish the school would’ve handed us a new baby to raise after we dropped our John to college. “Here is a new one. Raise him and bring him back in 18 years.”
And these are the words I used to comfort my friend Chris. I hope they are a comfort to you as a parent who sent his child to college, to the military, or a parent who is about to do that.
Remember. They are a lease. They belong to the Dealer who knows more about them than you do. He knows their value and cares about keeping them in optimum shape than we do.
I’m not athletic. I grew up in a different country where the emphasis was on education rather than sports. The smart kids were the cool ones. Not the quarterback but the valedictorian.
It’s different here in the US. When my son started his freshman year at High school. He joined the Football team. He and I knew he’s not good at Football, but, in his mind, it was the cool group to hang out with. That’s where you get the attention. He hardly played. When asked about his position, he replied: ” Left Bench.”
When it was time for the awards, at the end of the season, the quarterback and the wide-receivers received all the praise. He looked at me and said: “What about me?”
As a dad, I prayed for the right words and then said: “John, every student is excellent at something. You are excellent at making movies, filming and editing.” He sadly replied: “But there is no award ceremony to recognize what I’m good at.” I said, if there were one, you will be the quarterback getting all the attention.”
Last month, John’s high school decided to do a Film Festival. Their First Annual Film Festival. Last night was the award ceremony. Hundreds of people showed up. The competition was fierce.
Several very good short films were nominated. Guess who received the highest award? Yes. John Rizkallah for best short film.
When his name was called, I looked up to heaven and thanked God for the wise words He gave me four years prior. Are you a non-athletic high school student? Do you feel that no one appreciates what you do best? There is an award ceremony for you. If it has not been created it, rest assured that one day there will be one for you and you will be the quarter back. You will be applauded and appreciated. You don’t have to be good at sports to feel like a champion. Do what you love to do; what you are good at and you will be recognized and appreciated sooner or later.
It was Saturday, July 18th 2015. Southern California was going thru a severe drought. It hasn’t rained in a long time. For months and months we’ve been planning for the 2nd Annual Laughter For All Crusade at San Manuel 66ers Stadium in San Bernardino, CA. Last year we had over 5000 people attend the event. Everything was coming through beautifully. We prayed so much for the event.
That morning it started to rain at 9:00 AM. It rained cats and dogs (sorry PETA). The stage was set up, the sound equipment and the generators. All sitting there getting wet. We gathered as a team and prayed: “Lord we do need the rain, but please make it stop at 7:00 PM.” That’s Show time. We received hundreds of calls, that morning, from people asking if we are going to cancel the event. The answer by our core team, Mike, Tim, Robert, and myself was a definite NO. God will stop the rain at 7:00 PM.
The rain continued, the volunteers had to set up the 1000 toys and 1000 food bags in the rain. The generators broke, we had to get new generators, a new soundboard and everything that was supposed to go wrong, went wrong.
At 5 PM while coming back from Home Depot, a car ran a red light and was supposed to hit me, but it hit the car next to me.
BUT, we prayed it would stop raining once we start the show at 7:00 PM.
We gathered again in one of the suites and prayed for the rain to stop. Our spouses were praying, the volunteers were praying and some of the sponsors who showed up prayed as well.
At 7:00 PM, like a blanket, the sky rolled open, the rain stopped and a patch of blue showed up. (see picture above) The sky was blue; the rain stopped and the people in the stand stood with their smart phones taking pictures of the sky. I’ve never seen that before. People simeltaniously taking pictures of the sky.
God answered our prayer. For the next two and half hours it didn’t rain. Once we finished the event. It started raining again. That day was a record rain fall for California.
We had a teen that just found out that she’s pregnant came forward; A Father and his son, a Mom with her three children came forward to give their hearts to Christ.
It was worth all the money, the time and the energy every team member, sponsor artist and volunteer invested into the event. I’m glad we were obedient.
Prayer works. Not sure if your challenge is bigger or smaller than a Stadium event, God can answer your prayers, according to His will of course, and His timing. Sometimes your timing. Ours was 7:00 PM Sharp.
God won that day, and my lawn is green again.
On September 11 2011, I was seated at Ramstein Air force Base Air field, next to The General of the US Armed Forces, Admiral of the US Navy and dozens of high-ranking officers at a ceremony to commemorate the victims of 911. The night before, I performed for 1000 airmen that just returned from Iraq.
I remembered that Tuesday morning ten years ago, when I watched in horror what was taking place. As an American, citizen, this was horrific. Then it hit me. I’m a Middle Eastern Comedian. My career is over. Prior to that date, I was telling jokes about being a terrorist and hijacking planes…. I’m done.
I prayed that morning. I asked God to help me understand what is going on; what’s going to happen to America, and what’s going to happen to me?
For the next few weeks I feared the future; I feared to fly; I was so conscious of my surrounding. Who’s starring at me at the airport? I knew that Faith and Fear don’t to hand and hand, so I chose to have Faith that God will change the situation. God gave me a peace that morning that I will continue to do what I do and share more about Him since people are afraid.
I did, I started the Proud 2 B American Comedy Tour. It did great for few years. We performed at large churches and convention centers. Recording Artist Britt Nicole was my opening act and Jarrod Mac was my Illusionist. Every city we performed at, we invited families of soldiers who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Honored their loved ones and gave a portion of the proceed of the event to them.
God turned a lemon into lemonade. But I never thought, ten years later, He would make me sit next to Generals and Admirals in the United States Armed Forces.
We stood there in honor for the Flag-Folding Ceremony. It took our airmen two minutes to fold the American Flag. Then they played the German Anthem and the German Airmen folded the German Flag. It took them 15 minutes to do that. The General appeared frustrated with the time it is taking to fold the German Flag.
That’s when the comedian in me had to say something, so I leaned close to his ear and said: I’m glad they don’t fold my LAUNDRY!
You should see a Four star general trying not to laugh. He started shaking and his shoulders were going up and down. After they finished he shook my hand and gave me the Please don’t do this again look.
So if today you are afraid about something in your life, Please lay it before the Lord, Trust in His plan, and ask Him to give you His Peace. The Peace that surpasses ALL understanding. You don’t know what tomorrow can bring.
This picture, with my mom, was taken 23 years ago in Malibu right before my show at the Whisky a go go, the world famous Rock n Roll club in Hollywood. The Doors, Janis Joplin, and Led Zeppelin has performed there to name a few.
Why would they let a comedian perform there? Because I persisted and kept asking. I wanted a place to perform, on the Sunset Strip, when some of the comedy club didn’t have room for an up and coming comedian.
This picture reminds of persistence. When you persist, doors open. I lost my hair and my waist since, but I still have my mom, my sense of humor and my persistence.
Persist. Don’t give up. It will pay off.
I walked into Tom Tom’s Coffee house, in Pasadena, CA, last Saturday to grab a cup a coffee only to be moved by Nostalgic feelings when I noticed that they are having an open Mic night. That’s were musicians and artist come to play a song or two or do poetry to an audience comprised of other musicians and artists that want them to get off the stage so that they can perform.
I did hundreds and hundreds of these coffee house open Mic nights. I remember at times, they had 2 or 3 people in the audience and almost all of them were performers. Other times, there were two or three qualified audience members but they left following the performance of the musician that came right before me. I used to sit in the back of the room and beg quietly: “ Please don’t go. I’m funny. I will make you laugh if you only stay.” But they always did leave before my 3 minutes of comedy.
Many of the comedians that were there left and never went on stage. Their excuse: There were no real audience in the room. What’s the use of performing to other entertainers who are not listening?
I did, and performed at every opportunity and kept my ego in check since I knew I had to perform to get better. And when I did get my opportunity to do the Open Mic nights at the real comedy clubs, I was ready with funny material.
Perseverance works. I had three jobs at the time and one of them was full time. I worked 7 days a week to make a living and still made time to do 1 or 2 open Mic nights each day. I can number many comedians that started with me in these Hell Gigs as we call them, who didn’t feel the need to perform, are still in their day jobs wishing they could do comedy full time. Perseverance works and when you want something so bad and you’re willing to work hard for it, most likely you can achieve it. I haven’t done an open-Mic in 20 years. I don’t have to. I get paid well to do what I love to do, and I give the credit to perseverance and God of course. The only reason I’m writing this long blog is to encourage people to persevere.
Comedian Nazareth, and a team of leading entertainers and local ministries, will bring, Laughter For All to the City of San Bernardino, California. Loaded with encouragement and sidesplitting laughter, this will be the very first of many free comedy concerts with Comedian Nazareth. Laughter For All will be held on July 12th at San Manuel Stadium. The fun begins at the 4 pm Pre-Event featuring; free meals for kids, bounce houses, show cars, and a side stage of comedians and musicians. Showtime is 7pm; headlining award winning Comedian Nazareth, with music from special guests Dennis Agajanian, and T-Bone, with more laughs with Comedians Cleto Rodrigues and Cizzle C.
Laughter For All with Comedian Nazareth is pioneering a new way to do outreach crusades. Nazareth is big on giving hope to individuals who may be facing hardships such as illness, depression, or the loss of a loved one. Nazareth has a heart for families who may be going through financial stress and can’t afford tickets to a live concert right now. The Laughter For All event is a completely free event open to all the public (free parking too!). In addition to tangible resources (such as a 1000-toy giveaway and hundreds of bags of groceries!) the Laughter For All event will give humor, hope, and healing to truly hurting people.
Comedian Nazareth has done similar events in the past. He strives to bring encouragement to individuals and families using laughter and the Love of God. He did a 3-year run of the, “Proud 2 B American Tour”, to encourage the families of soldiers in their time of distress. His “America We Care Tour”, was geared to helping people find jobs during a hard-hitting time. Employers from surrounding cities were invited to set up booths at the show, posting all the available jobs within the area. Comedian Nazareth is devoted to encouraging people and sharing God’s Love through the gift of laughter. If Laughter is the best medicine, then Comedian Nazareth’s Laughter For All event is a double dose not to miss!
For more information visit LaughterForAll.org/sanbernardino