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Richard Strauss

Like many of life’s true gifts, I did not appreciate SPIRIT SERIES when it first arrived. If it had been a birthday present, I would have exchanged it at the mall. I was living in Los Angeles — a working screenwriter at the time. Our small family had recently become even smaller. My daughter was ten. We had just lost her mom to breast cancer.

When I first heard the “call,” I turned away. I did not write for children and had no interest in doing so. Although I loved my daughter, and liked other kids well enough, I had no intention of devoting my life to their welfare. Still, as the days passed and I fielded the tough questions that tragedy was prompting in my daughter’s heart, I could not shake the feeling that my life would never be the same. This work now had me in its grip.

Events then conspired to make the notion of SPIRIT SERIES a reality. I was just a concerned parent, with storytelling skills and a big question: could the wisdom and character of great heroes from the past empower our children to meet adversity in their own lives? To test that, in a public school setting, would be a daunting task — especially with no training as an educator. But in the spring before my daughter entered sixth grade, I was introduced to a gifted secondary school teacher who was inspired by the idea of the SERIES and had the expertise to help realize its possibilities. Nine months later, we led 120 students in four classes through the first SPIRIT SERIES experience at Santa Monica’s Lincoln Middle School.

When the three-week pilot residency was complete and the kids were electrified by what they had learned about themselves, something shifted in me. We had taught them the story of an Indian prince who had given up his life of privilege to seek an end to life’s suffering: “Buddha Walks.” Now I was faced with a similar challenge. Would I be willing to walk away from all that I held familiar and dear to venture into the unknown with no guarantee of success? Like Prince Siddhartha, I knew I had no choice. I had already stepped into the mystery…and there was no turning back. Now, many years and tens of thousands of students later, I marvel every day at the deep meaning and unique rewards that only the gift of service can provide.

Richard Strauss
Founder | National Executive Director

Empower Students Across America

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