The things I learn ...
Rambling about the art of making little magical moments.
There are probably a few of you out there that are getting a little tired of me going on about the power of a good smile shared with strangers. I suspect there a plenty of you that think my “Saving the World One Smile at a Time” is a trite marketing ploy. Perhaps there are even those of you who think I’m a foolish man for dropping out of Corporate America to pursue such a senseless endeavor of drawing smiles and creating crowds of smiles and sharing simple old fashion laughter among strangers from foreign lands. With all things being considered, I’ll have to weigh the balances of reality and the common core of truth and say that perhaps in one perspective, those whom cast shadows of doubt and disbelief may have a point. Of course, I personally wouldn’t stand on a single inch of such opinions. To each their own, I suppose. It’s a free country…. for now.
If you happen to be one of those negative thinking types I suggest you move on if you are not open to new ideas. However, if you are open to new ideas and you have a glimmer of hope in your heart, then please enjoy this little tidbit I’m about to share with you.
I've mentioned this before, but there is truly something magical that happens within the borders of Walt Disney World. I’ll admit as much as I wanted to believe when I first joined this circus that I honestly thought it was a bunch of big corporation marketing manipulation of heartstrings dangling from humanity. As most of you know, I’ve morphed into not only a believer of this magical entity here at WDW, but I’ve learned to generate and create such magical moments here in the most magical place on earth. (Now that’s Giant Corporate manipulation of humanities heartstrings).
Enough of theoretical explanations. Here’s a true moment that I was very pleased to be a part of for an older couple from Michigan. They were Disney Vacation Club members. (A wonderful program as far as time shares go…) They were a sweet and humble pair who simply love Disney for what it really is - an escape. A place as Walt said, where “dreams do come true”. Walt was right. Dreams do come true here. The trick is that you have to be open to that fantastic stretch of reality to make such magic happen. This older couple from Michigan (60-somethings) were so capable of believing in such magic that they become DVC members years ago. If you are curious about a DVC (Disney Vacation Club) membership, I encourage you to visit with a DVC member, not a sales person, but an actual member of the program.
This couple from Michigan approached me at one of the many resort caricature stands on a pretty slow night and engaged me in a dialogue. “Excuse me" She said, “May I ask you a question?” "Of course" I said “and you just did.”
“No I mean .. funny, but can you draw someone from a photo?” "Of course" I said, "but I would have to see the photo just to make sure”. She then pulled her phone out and scrolled to a photo of a young man (18-19yrs old) and the young man was leaning his head sideways onto the shoulder of a very old man with one eye. I thought I was going to have to draw the old guy with one eye and not make him look like Popeye. He did look like Popeye.
She asked if I could draw her and her husband and the young man in the photo leaning his head on her shoulder. I said of course. The the magic started to develop in the room. She and her husband both looked at each other and got a little wet eyed, if you know what I mean. So much so that I asked “Why? Whats up?”
She then proceeded to tell me that in the last two weeks they’ve been here at Disney World that they have asked artist after artist in the parks and various resorts of the could do this drawing and they were turned down. They were given various reasons, the most common was that the young man's head was turned at an odd angle and they couldn’t draw him unless his head was upright. I seriously thought this to be a bogus response, but whatever. I agreed and asked her to sit down first, then I’d draw the young man on her shoulder and then the husband behind them. She was trying so hard to hold back tears I had to ask again “Whats the story here?”
Then they told me. They shared with me why this was such an important drawing for them, even if it was a silly caricature. Turns out that the young man was their son. He was a victim of a tragic accident and passed away earlier last year. He was suppose to be with them on this winter trip to Walt Disney World. They obviously were still grieving over his sudden departure from their lives. Now once I heard the story, I started to get weepy eyed. We continued our conversation while I worked on the drawing. I was told many stories of what a wonderful young man their son was. He attended an honors high School. He was very active in the student body. It appeared everyone there loved him. They created a scholarship for seniors at his former school in his name with a non profit organization that they formed after his death. He was a handsome young man with a huge heart and a brilliant mind. He liked everyone he met. He was a shining light for everyone at his school. I could go on, but I’m betting that you get the picture. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
I finished the caricature and upon revealing it to them, were were more tears and a few very strong hugs. Those are the best tip ever by the way, just saying.
So, there you go, another very simple moment of saving the world one smile at a time. Simply by being open to assist. Simply by being willing to accept a challenge from a couple of strangers. Simply by being willing to serve what little talent and skills I have to please a couple on vacation, attempting to escape their troubled world, I was able to make their world a better place. For this couple, a very sweet and humble hearted couple from a rural area of Michigan, I created a little Disney magical moment. Not to mention the onlookers whom were intuitive enough to catch on that something very special was happening right in front of them. They caught some of that magic as well. Hopefully, they’ll have a chance to pass the magic along to someone else. All it takes is creating a little smile with a couple of strangers. Hopefully, now that I’ve shared this story with you, you’ll have the confidence and the open heart to do the same. I dare all of you to share a smile with a stranger in the most simplest of interactions. Regardless of the situation, I’m sure if you get the chance, you’ll change the world for others too.
Please and thank you, have a great day.
Imagine if you will, its a brilliant sunny Sunday morning. You wake up refreshed from a long evening of making a crowd of smiles and you are eager to seize the day. What better way to Carpe Diem than to knock out those pesky 10,000 steps that we are all suppose to have at the end of the day? So you leash up your hyper energetic one year old lab mix and pounce out the door. A quicker than coffee pace down two flights of stairs and out into the bright warm sunny world.
You're being pulled by fifty plus pounds of canine energy. Tongue wagging with joy in the fresh morning air. The dogs tongue, not yours. At first its a strenuous isometric exercise, his energy pulling on your still, slightly sleepy human form. You strain your upper shoulders, arms, chest and back muscles for the first thousand steps or so. Then the pace begins to even out. “This is good for me," you think to yourself." I can feel my heart rate escalate to a reasonable workout rhythm.”
Quickly passing the centennial asian couple holding hands in the park on the walkway, you and your canine partner are spreading joyful energy throughout the parkway. Waving to joggers, cyclists and of course the cute asian centennials. Its a glorious, joyful day. Hurray.
Oh look, up ahead, a blue swallowtail butterfly, fluttering among the bushes. How pretty. Then just as you and fluffy come within fluttering flight space of said pretty blue swallowtail butterfly, your high energy fifty plus pounds of momentum instantly changes course on you to chase this beautiful natural distraction. Within a blink of your eye, your quick pace fast walking, sorta jogging pace takes an instant change of direction without warning. “Pop! Snap! Pain!” goes your shoulder as your canine partner now has jolted into a full forceful leap and bolting run in an opposite 160° direction. Instinctively you grab the now loose leash with your other hand as your current holding arm simply dangles in pain at your side. Your now stumbling through well kept shrubbery being dragged by your turncoat canine partner whose only goal now is to catch the butterfly.
People are screaming, children crying the cute asian centennials are having a heart attack because of the chaos you and your demon dog of doom are causing in the public park on this once wonderful Sunday morning. You’ve easily ceded your goal of 10000 steps. You’ve exhausted your canine companion. The pretty blue swallowtail butterfly has fluttered off into the distance, with a certain smirk of joy on her face.
You hobble home with an exhausted fifty plus pound puppy, You with your cuts and bruises and occasional twig or two in your shoe strings, your hair, your torn t-shirt and your worthless right arm, in pain, just dangling by your side, like a toy action figure whose shoulder stitch has come undone. There is not enough aspirin, ibuprofen, or wine in the house to ease the pain of not only your shoulder, cuts and bruises, but of your ego. The day started with a bright energetic ego of yours, convinced it would seize the day. Your ego was convinced it would become the model citizen in your neighborhood and do all the right things network society tells us is the right way to live. Your ego was ready to change the world, but now it’s damaged, wounded and suffering in a pain equal to your dislocated shoulder. Your egos only current helpful medicinal assistance comes from the very source of its damage. Your fifty plus pound energetic ball of fur and supreme muscle of a beast that caused this damage. Here your canine partner quietly, softly, gently rests his head in your lap with his sad puppy eyes looking up at you. As if he’s saying, “sorry, I didn’t catch that pretty blue swallowtail butterfly for you. Next time I will. I hope you feel better tomorrow, so we can do it again. "
*This post was created with voice dictation.” It took forever.” Now I wish there was a voice dictation or an eye controlled digital drawing tool so that I could get my work done today.”
Have a wonderful Sunday, Carpe Diem everybody, but leave the canines at home.
Wouldn't it be great to see drawings and sketches from people as they visualize this story?
A few weeks ago I had a visit with a NASA engineer. A friend of my wifes from high school. He’s an engineer that works on the air traffic control systems that the FAA uses. He’s also a marathon runner and a single father of twin 11 yr old boys. A great guy. A very active and a very creative mind. Highly intelligent. That should be a given. He’s a NASA engineer.
The reason. Bring him up in is because during our tour of Disney we got on the topic of creative thinking. Disney seems to bring out the best in peoples creative thinking. Imagine that. He was curious about the work I do, drawing smiles. I was extremely curious about the work that he was doing in his little corner of NASA. He is one of the engineers that works on the systems in air traffic control operations. Forecasting and planning years ahead in the safety of aviation, really interesting stuff and of course most of everything he said was way over my head. Still my imagination could see the idealistic visions that he shared with the rest of his NASA family.
One of the coolest things I learned is that for down time and stress release that he is into, aside from running marathons, he is also a master at the art of origami. That’s that. I said origami. When you think about this it makes perfect sense. A NASA engineer playing with the art of folding paper. The instinctive mathematics that goes into his creations. The planning, the per-conceived visions that it takes to turn a simple piece of paper into something clever and interesting. Recently NASA launched a new living quarters to the space station. Guess what? It was folded up inside a payload capsule. Then released into space and unfolded effortlessly to its full size and then easily installed in place on the space station. Origami on the largest scale imaginable created by your local origami artists at NASA.
All of the energy for satellites and the space station are generated by solar panels. Huge unfolding wings of solar panels. That when switched on, systematically unfold into their enormous size and instantly become fully operational, generating all the power they need. So to hear this NASA engineer brag about his master origami skills was just a wonderful example of genius ability and creative thinking to me. The bonus is that he has passed on his artistic skills to his twin 11 year old boys.
He and the twins will pass time at restaurants, in lines at movies or in Disney, in the lines for attractions. Together they will kill time by creating origami critters and little people then leave them n places all over the theme parks, restaurants, bathrooms and any unsuspecting public places for other pope to discover. Passing along their creative magic to others. Little magical treasures. This is something after my own heart. I just love it.
Imagine if you will. Your standing in line at the airport waiting for the TSA and you notice sitting on top of the little stand that you throw all your liquids into, a little origami man made of a metallic checked black and red paper waving at you. It is a good chance this NASA engineer or one of his twin sons were there before you and wanted to leave someone like you a little unsuspecting magical moment.
Isn’t that a great example of passing the creative magic along? It certainly is a great example of using your down time in a positive creative way. If you have any similar ways of creatively killing time or relieving stress, I’d like to here from you? Are any of you master origami craftsmen? Share your stories with me, I’d love to hear them. Please and thank you and have a creative day.
Last night I was doing my typical saving the world one smile at a time routine and I had the pleasure of meeting the Assistant Chief of EMS of Washington DC. Now, there's a true hero. Our conversation quickly turned to me admitting my shame of making a mockery of real heroism by pretending to "save the world with a smile" antics. After all, this man has risked his life saving citizens in life and death situations most of his life. I'm just a clown with a pen.
To add to his greatness, his wife is a teacher of 22 years. She currently is dedicating her services to teaching underprivileged children in the inner city district of DC. There, my friends is a true super hero. Imagine, this woman has the opportunity to do whatever she wants in the education world and she has chosen one of the hardest paths anyone can imagine. That my friends is pure servitude.
It gets better. Their son is a fireman in the same firehouse of his father. The Assistant chief's father was a fireman and his great grandfather helped organize the fire department of some comminity I fail to remember. These guys are true first responder legacies. An entire family history of heroes.
It was a delightful and very interesting time with them. Yet, I felt silly as they seemed so much more interested in what I was doing with my smile making abilities. I continued to attempt to turn the conversation towards their remarkable life saving services and duties, but they seemed to shrug it off as if what they do in life is nothing at all. Remarkable people.
It's families like this that teach me so much. It's families like this that keep me hungry to reach out and give more of myself for others.
In other news.... Ty The Art Guy is now bonded and Insured.
I guess that means that if a kid should swallow one of my markers or someone I draw suffers a life threatening paper cut, I'm covered.
I also have background checks available.
It was after closing hours. The guests were settling into their rooms. The parks, the restaurants the attractions were closing up. The wash down crews and maintenance teams were starting their shifts. Cast members from all walks of life were making their routine stop at the Gas station before they commuted home. I myself am waiting in line to pay for my milk, cookies and a tank of gas.
In front of me is an older man in his formal waiter attire. He's probably in his sixties. He has about five of those "certified foreign language badges on his name tag. "Luisao" it says on his name tag. He, like many cast members is joking with the cashier. They laugh, he leaves, I make nothing of it. I pay for my after work snack and gas and make my way to pump 14.
On pump 13 is Luiso. We both pumped our gas listening to the piped in pop music. He looks up at me and says "This music, it's pathetic. It has nothing." I agree with him and reply that there is no thought in the lyrics. There used to be real meaning in the lyrics. He stares at me and gives me the international shrug of approval. "In my car, I have Pavarotti." Was his reply. I told him all I have in my car is the jazz radio station. He smiled.
He then asked if I was a cast member. I said no, I'm just a caricaturist at some of the resorts. I quickly followed it up with a prideful, "but my wife is a chef in Epcot." Then he told me he was a waiter at Monsieur Paul. " I serve happiness. I've been there 30 years. Which restaurant does your wife workh at?"
"The Garden Grill, in the Land Pavillion. I like that you serve happiness, I like to say I draw smiles for a living. " he smiled at me warmly and chuckled.
Luiso put his pump handle back into the pump and stretched his hand out for me to shake as he said "We are lucky people, you, your wife and I, yes?"
"Yes, Luiso. Yes we are. Travel home safely. There is much more happiness to make tomorrow." I shake his hand. Put my pump handle up and as I'm getting into my car, I hear Pavarroti drive off into the night.
From Ty Walls:
After four decades drawing smiles I often encounter remarkable people. I've learned to create little special moments for people from all around the world with my simple smile-drawing skills. But sometimes, life creates little magical moments for me. This blog is my attempt to share them with you.