I’m a magician, storyteller, busker, motivator, mentor and a showman. Yet … I try to avoid labels. I am Hannibal. I’m the only one that can do that. I follow my road and I do my utmost to enjoy the scenery (whatever it is) while I walk it. I’ve won some awards, but I’ll never be waving them in people’s faces. I’ve lost more contests than I’ve won. Experience!
Last week I went out busking for experience. Money is fine at the moment, but for great rehearsal time, especially of material ‘in development’, there’s nothing better than a raw, honest audience that has no stake in liking you, or even sticking around. Plus, and I love this term, I hijacked many souls with joy. I put in some sweat equity and forged some time … the nights were beautiful and the people were great. I truly love working the street in the spring and fall.
A young gentleman approached me between sets and we made some small talk. People are fascinated by this kind of theatre and the people who brave the unknown, the unusual and present their craft. I like to think they get to live a little vicariously outside their lives through me. Meh. Ego?
At any rate, we got to taking about street performance and street preaching and street hustlers. He mentioned that he did some volunteer work at a few shelters and that the people there would enjoy a performance like mine. Did I ever do charity work? I told him that I do, occasionally, and asked what he had in mind. It seems one of the organizations works with women and children, homeless and in poverty.
Have you ever had a moment when your heart just gave you direction, and you knew instantly that it was the absolute right thing to do? I’m not trying to get too ‘woo’ on you, here, but I caught a spark. Over the course of the next hour, and filling in details for a couple of days, we put together an event. As you know, I occasionally throw a dinner theater evening with local restaurants. I thought: why not give this audience that experience? Here’s what we did.
The children were in one room, a sort of makeshift cafeteria. I was to perform for 20-30 minutes and then they were going to have dinner. While I was with them, the grownup women had a ‘candlelit’ quiet meal. Because I really wanted my hands in as many aspects of this as I could, I made two crock-pots of spaghetti and one of beef stew. The food was a hit, and I had nothing to bring home after.
When I finished my show with the kids, I moved to the other room and performed my after-dinner show for the women. Now … I don’t do kid’s shows. I was very nervous about bringing them quality … very. To my delight, they were a perfect, respectful audience. they got my corny jokes, they were right with me for the magic parts, I really couldn’t have asked for a better group of kids. They loved the show and I fell in love with them.
The show for the grown-ups? EVEN BETTER. They were happy, they were sarcastic, we had some great interaction and a lovely chemistry. The elf boots SLAYED them and I had a line after the show to have a boot made. (You have any idea how hard it is to do origami with tears in your eyes?)
They sang along to my song. They SANG ALONG to “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday”. I stayed and swapped some stories and yarns and a few close-up card tricks.
I’ve worked all over the world. I’ve never been paid better than I was for this show. They made me wealthy. I’m repeating the experience for a different group later this week. I really cannot wait.
All of that to say: You have something to offer someone. You have talent and ability to lift someone out of their situation, if only for a moment. If only for a day. You can read books, brush and cut hair, give manicures … anything to make someone on the low feel loved and valuable.
I distracted them from harshness, I showed them love and joy and card tricks. It cost me nothing. Nothing. They left their harsh reality and saw … hope?
In the best of worlds, gods, I wish for that. To give someone hope …
You can, too.