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Never Give Up on Your Dreams

My Leo Buscaglia Miracle

written by Barry and Joyce Vissell November 11, 2020
Never Give Up on Your Dreams

Have you ever had a dream that you wanted so deeply, but it just did not seem to be coming forth for you? I would like to give you the possibility that, right as you are reading this article, details are being put into place to allow your dream to come true. It is just about believing, trusting, and keeping your vision.

Realizing Our Dreams

When I finished my nursing degree at Columbia University in New York City in 1968, I moved to Nashville, Tennessee where Barry began his first year of medical school.  I worked as a public health nurse. I liked my job, but within me, there was the deepest desire to go back to school and receive more education. Barry and I talked about this often. We were living on my meager salary as a nurse and paying all of two thousand dollars a year for his medical school. There was simply not enough money left over for me to also go to school.

Barry promised that, as soon as he was done with his training, he would support me to go back to school. But he always asked the same question, “What exactly is it that you want to study? What kind of a graduate degree do you want to get?” Anyone wanting to go back to school should know the answers to these important questions. I did not.

I felt strong intuition and dream to go back to school and learn valuable information for my entire life. I could not even imagine what kind of a graduate program could possibly give me that, but the dream within me grew day by day. And yet, day by day, I did my very humble job of serving the poorest of the poor in a ghetto in Nashville. I saw poverty that few in America even know exists. I realized that this work within itself was a valuable education, but I kept dreaming of being back in an academic setting.

A Shift

A highlight of our time in Nashville was a friend inviting us to a party to meet her friend, Leo Buscaglia, who was visiting from Los Angeles. It was a night we would never forget. Leo initiated us into a new world of consciousness.

After two years in Nashville, Barry decided to transfer to USC in Los Angeles to finish his training. This was just fine with me, as the politics and prejudice of the south were difficult for me. Barry did not have to go to LA to interview. He was already accepted. But he felt he wanted to go and just see the school, so he chose a “convenient” weekend.  I stayed at home since there was not enough money for both of us to go.

On Barry’s return flight to Nashville, he ”happened” to sit next to a man named Bill. The two men got talking, and Bill told Barry that he was just hired to work for Leo Buscaglia at USC. The job entailed finding ten students to receive a full scholarship and living expenses for a graduate program in which these ten students would have almost every class with Leo for a full year. Bill said, “As soon as word gets out about this incredible opportunity, I’ll probably receive thousands of applications.”

How am I ever going to find the ten best students for this unique experience?”

Barry said, “Well, my wife really wants to go back to school. This sounds like a perfect fit for her.” I didn’t even mention that we had met Leo and already loved him. Bill closed his eyes for a moment, then suddenly opened them and said, I just found my first graduate student! Without knowing anything about me and trusting his intuition, Bill accepted me on the spot as one of the ten students. Imagine my total delight when Barry returned and told me I was accepted into this amazing graduate program.

We moved to LA and I began what was to become one of the most valuable years of my life, and certainly the most important part of my education. Leo Buscaglia taught me and the other nine chosen students all that he knew of love, dreams, courage, risk-taking, love of self, seeing beauty in others, and living a rich and fulfilling life.

He had never offered this program before and got special permission from the university to offer it for one year. After that year, he left the university and went on to write many books, five of which remained on the New York Times Best Seller List for many years. In the 1980s, he became the most sought after speaker in the United States with audiences of 10,000-15,000 each time. And all that he was speaking about in those huge auditoriums, he taught us, ten students, in a small room at USC.

He was truly my first spiritual teacher.

I had the dream of going back to school for two years, but could never quite picture how it would work out. I could not picture it because it went beyond what I could have ever imagined.

Whenever I think of this miracle in my life, I am filled with gratitude for the gift I was given. And I also know that right now, for all of us, there is a miracle being worked out to make our dreams come true. Our job is to continue to believe, to trust that we are loved and deserving, to pray, to hope, and to never give up on our dreams.


The Vissells’ new books, To Really Love a Woman and To Really Love a Man, can be ordered from their website with free shipping or from Amazon.com.

Call 831-684-2299 for further information on counseling sessions. Visit their website at SharedHeart.org for their free monthly e-heartletter, their updated schedule, and inspiring past articles on many topics about relationships and living from the heart. For opportunities to bring more love and growth into your life, please visit Barry and Joyce Vissells’ events page.

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