Tag Archives: giving

Summer Camp

I do one 'kids show' a year, and I wish I could do many more, as long as they were as gratifying, as heartwarming, as the Charlotte MDA Summer Camp. Every summer for the past 11 years, I've been invited to entertain the campers and the counselors one evening, and every time I leave, I'm struck by how lucky I am to have been there.

The children and youth that attend have various forms of muscular dystrophy, but their enthusiasm is unmatched in any audience I've had the privilege to work for. Yes, it's your typical summer camp. There are multiple activities and campfires and sing alongs and home sickness and stomach bugs and everything that makes camp a silver memory that many of us treasure for our lifetime. It's so much more than that, though. As you might imagine, working with the individual challenges of each camper is a daunting endeavor, yet it's done with humor, energy, and style. So much grace …

And there's love. Man, the love in that place is so thick you could spread it on toast. The staff and the counselors bring their best for the campers and everyone looks out for everyone else. Maybe I'm gushing a little, but I'm sincere.

The past three years I arrived wrapped up in my own troubles, and they vanish within the first few minutes. I leave invigorated, happy, and hopeful. And moved. Lifted so high, emotionally.

I'm not …. writing about this to brag, or promote my image. I want to impress on you the value of giving of your ability. Taking your talent, your time, your vitality and using it to enrich the lives of those who need it and see so little in their world. It could be anything, any cause, listen to your heart. Believe this: it's been worth any 'sacrifice' I've had to make in order to be there.

The love you need is where you plant it.

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Jess and Joe

Spectacular people in my life.

I met this beautiful couple years ago while working a Halloween party. We became instant friends and, later, they allowed me to perform for their guests at their wedding. The love and support they’ve shown me over the years has been immeasurable.

For my birthday, they took an iconic deck of blue bikes and took the time to write a little inspirational message on every single card in the pack. Including the jokers. I am humbled, grateful and shining.

I’d like to use this inspiration to make a request: write someone an encouraging note. Take paper and pen and take just a moment to tell them how you love them. How they affect your world. It makes a huge difference.

I am truly gifted with my friends Jessica and Joe. They are a part of the real magic I make, they are a reminder to me of the power of giving from the heart.

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With Great Power …

… Comes great responsibility. Right?

Well, of course. But what about a little power … or power you don’t realize you have? I’m going out on a limb here and I’m going to state that your main responsibility is to be true to yourself and the journey you are on. Because, honestly: you don’t know who you’re affecting and how.

How’s that for vague? Let me give you an example, a really powerful one. Now understand, things like this are happening to me all the time to a lesser or greater degree. It comes with the territory of being a public figure … of putting your heart out there. Hear this and understand the potential behind it: You AFFECT … You CHANGE THE VERY LIVES of people every day. Every. Day.

When I first got into the corporate entertainment arena (that is to say, when I earned my way in) I had a very regular client, Rob. He worked for a great company that used me in varying degrees on a regular basis and we established a close working relationship. He liked my performance style so much that he started bringing his family in to see me at my regular restaurant gig. I could just about count on seeing them every week.

Now, Rob had a young son: Roddy. Roddy became an instant fan and I would strive to do something new for him weekly. I could always make them laugh and … well, it was just a really good moment in my working week to see them coming in. As I’ve stated before, I think I have more friends amoung my audience than I do ‘fans’. I get close, you know? Rob would even have parties at the beach and put me and my family up just to get a show for his friends and clients.

Alright so, passage of time: I move on from restaurants and Rob changes companies and people slowly drift apart, sometimes. Jump head about 14 years and out of the blue Rob calls me up to perform at Roddy’s 22nd birthday. Absolutely. Let’s make this happen. I won’t mention how hearing that Roddy was turning 22 made me realize jut how fast time goes …

The party was awesome and raucous and I had a bunch of fun (as usual) while doing my work. It seems Roddy has embraced being a race car driver and he’s an up and coming star in his field. He works hard and he’s really good at what he does. Bonus points: he’s following his passion. There’s a good possibility that he’ll be the star of a TV show being pitched to major networks, based on his charisma and skill in his chosen profession. Kudos, right?

Toward the end of the night, Roddy sought me out and we had a very brief but very moving discussion. Roddy told me that he had two secrets to his success. The first was to surround himself with positive, talented people. People with skill and vision, but(most importantly) with a great attitude toward life. The kind of people that believe in you even when you think you don’t belong or you feel you aren’t capable of something. They stick with you and keep you motivated to move forward.

The second thing was: Me. Hannibal. #cardmonkey from his childhood. He told me that when things seemed very tough and dark and he felt like giving up … he would think of me. Out there doing magic tricks night after night and grinding my way toward excellence. The thought of me NOT GIVING UP gave him the courage to push through just a little bit longer.

Responsibility. What you are and what you do affect people. The tenacity to keep going when it seems everyone is against you. Performing night after night after day after week after month after year … gave a boy with a dream the inspiration to become a man on the move. I was overwhelmed. I still am. I’m grateful and I’m massively humbled.

This isn’t an isolated occurrence, either. The longer I work at this it seems the more people I meet who tell me that something I said or did (or didn’t do) gave them a gift of some kind. The desire to strive for something difficult, the insite to look within themselves for beauty and greatness, the courage to LIVE for another day.

And all I can say to them (and you) is: I didn’t intend to be a role model. I just do what I do to the best of my ability and I hope it tells you a good story. Ironically these incidents have given me will and courage, too. The thought that I can’t give up … that someone I don’t even know is counting on me.

I know. Pretty heady stuff for a guy who just does card tricks, right? Only (dear friends) let me state this: I am not incidental. Neither are you. You are unique and you possess a passion somewhere within you that can literally change and save lives and possibly the world. That is a great power, and with great power …

You know.

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Dancing and Heart Shaped Boxes: Christmas, 2014

Right now it’s Christmas Eve. The kids have gone home or up to bed and I’m siting in the dark alone. By the time I’m done, it will be well into Christmas. Want to go for a walk with me?

This holiday for me has always been about family. The blood ones, the ones who married in, and the ones we invite to the table. You are loved, and I consider you family. You’re welcome at my table … bring a story, a song or something you made.

This year was creative. We all reached out for each other’s hearts. For myself: Carlaysle made me a porcelain dragon lamp, Avalon Rose Stuffed a Joy Tea box with inspirational quotes and petals from flowers I gave her once, Grace made desserts in the kitchen of her newlywed first house and Braiden brought us his music.

 

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“The book of love is long and boring, and written very long ago. It’s full of flowers and heart shaped boxes and things we’re all too young to know.” ~ Magnetic Fields

When I opened Avalon’s gift and saw what she created for me, it brought me to tears. Literally. I sat there with water pouring down my face, unable to breathe. I was very moved, especially since we’ve had some friction lately. I’m more than a little afraid we’re growing apart like I did with my father. And it’s largely my fault. But that is another story. Tonight she showed me how much she thinks about me, and how she still feels about her old man. All the kids showed me: I am surrounded by love.

Tonight sparked memories of my father.

My father and I were never really close. I wasn’t quite good enough to be the son he wanted. That’s a quote from the man himself. Dad was an architect and an electrical engineer. Smartest man I knew. A real straight line thinker. Conservative in his living and no-frills. His vices were whiskey and golf, and those in moderation. He was in the Army and played college football with Sonny Jurgensen. (Look it up). I was non-athletic and a real let down. He tried really hard to get me into baseball and football, but I just had no talent for it. My only asset was that I could take a hit. Even as a young, skinny man, my low center of gravity and … solidity made it really difficult to get me off my feet. Anyway, I couldn’t play very well and had no skill at all. Dad bitterly gave up when I was about 15.

At that age I picked up theater and music in earnest. My path went far and astray from what my dad considered respectable. We quite simply grew apart and I just … started talking to myself and working things out on my own. When I became a magician, he threw his hands up completely. I was a waste; a dime a dozen. His words. Art and frivolity were nice for some people, but he just knew I was supposed to be something … worthwhile, and it mad him very sad that his only son didn’t follow his footprints.

Now … Dad loved to laugh, and I could usually make him laugh. You can’t tell it from any of his photographs, but he had a big, hearty laugh. He just didn’t think show business was a good way to raise a family. On more than one occasion I spied him dancing when he thought no one was watching. Turns out … he was a hell of a good dancer.

Pancreatic cancer took my father swiftly. From diagnosis to the end was just a matter of ano few pain-filled weeks. I kind of got to say goodbye. He was high on pain meds and didn’t really understand that I was even there. He died while I was onstage. I got the news when I got back to my room after.

When I attended his wake, I got a shock. Stranger after stranger came up to me to tell me how much my father bragged to them about his son, the great magician. Apparently he told many stories to them about my shows, the contests I was in and the places I traveled to. And then:

And then …

And then I went to clean out his house. In the back of his bedroom closet I found two boxes. One was full of trophies. Recently dated trophies. The other was full of newspaper articles about me. Photographs. Magazines and video tapes of television programs I had appeared on. A box full of love and pride. Color me boggled.

The trophies? They were for ballroom dancing. My stepmother explained that at fifty years of age, found his passion in dancing, and he was quite good at it. He won several awards and competitions. Rather than display his trophies, he put them in a box, carefully in the back of a dark closet. That is the man my father was.

In a twist of serendipity I bought myself a pair of dancing shoes for Christmas. I saw them and bought them with my father in mind. A few days later a very dear friend gave me a certificate for ballroom dancing lessons. I’m turning fifty next year.

 

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 “The book of love is long and boring, no one can lift the damn thing. It’s full of charts and facts and figures … and instructions for dancing.” ~ Magnetic Fields

Suddenly … because of this gift, I feel a little more in touch with the man he kept hidden. Perhaps we shared more than I ever knew. Thus a thoughtful gift changed my life and my heart. I want to embrace you all as family … scars, shyness and everything. Come as you are.

This table has plenty of seats available.

In your hands and in your heart you have the simple gifts to make a real difference. Love, caring, and compassion.

Will you give?

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Gifts and Heroes

I’ve always been a huge advocate of using your gifts. Sharing your experiences and talents with those less fortunate. Inspiring and lifting up those who truly need it. I have a friend who is doing just that, and she inspired me to write this post.

My Mother was unable to bear children, and so I was adopted. At the time that was the only option. I have a special love for women who take up the cause, as it were. Reaching out to Mother the helpless.

Meet my friend Maria. ImageA lovely young lady in the prime of her life. Surrounded by friends and gifted with compassion, she heard about couples trying in vain to have children of their own. On her own initiative, she looked in to donating eggs for In Vitro Fertilization. She discovered REACH in North Carolina, and is going through the long, tough procedure. Let me let her tell you in her own words:

H) What made you decide to donate?

M) “A friend of mine actually brought it up about how she had to stand by and watch a boss of hers go through failed pregnancies and miscarriages. I felt compelled to look up donation and surrogacy because I thought if it was someone I knew I’d want to take some action. I looked up places around Charlotte to see if I could make it happen and I found Reach in June. Within these past months my sister and her husband are actually going through it, and it breaks my heart.”

H) Do you donate blood/ platelets and/or plasma, too?

M)  “I’ve always donated blood, ever since the Red Cross started coming into schools. Multiple times in high school and college. I was told I had a special type of blood they can be given to babies! I am also an organ donor.”

H) Do you plan to have kids of your own someday?

M) “As of right now there are no plans for children in the future. I love children and working with them, I’m a nanny, help with the Girl Scouts and worked with the YMCA summer camp for 3 years but I just don’t see myself being responsible enough for someone to depend on me for everything.”

H) What’s been the most difficult part of this endeavor, and how did you get through it?

M) “The hardest part of this process….for starters it’s been very lengthy you have to be very patient. I started in June, it is now November and I’m not yet on the list to be paired with a recipient couple. There is so much information and tests that have to be done but the hardest was speaking with a counselor. I was asked to being along my significant other because they wanted to know how he felt about my decision. We then spoke with a psychiatrist for almost two hours. The hardest question being, when I’m older and might decide to have children how will I feel if I cannot conceive yet know there is a child of mine out in the world. It turned my world around, I’d never thought of that before. But with my hand clasped by the man I love who is fully supportive I realized we would breach that gap, if we were to go through it, together. We even talked about adopting!”

H) If you could, would you want to keep track of the children you made possible?

M) “I think it would be neat to keep track of the child/children that I helped make possible. I signed contracts saying I would never look for the child and I’m not allowed to meet the couple either. There is a chance that the law could change about the child trying to find me but as of now it is not allowed. I am curious as to what the child will look like and traits they will possess, I was even asked to write up a fake note to the child about growing up. I told them to always chase their dreams but that those dreams don’t come without hard work. I just hope for their happiness and pray for patience for the parents cause if they get a mini me they’ll have their hands full!”

So there you go. A young woman selflessly giving life to the world, hope to the future.  I hear people my age putting down today’s youth, saying they are selfish and spoiled. Don’t you believe it.
There is love, and plenty of it.

Maria – you are my hero. Thank you!

“I am not a man of action, I am a man of will. But I can’t believe in my will unless I act from it.”

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