It has been some time since I have made a new entry. I do not have a schedule for posting – I simply write when I am feeling the urge. The urge has struck. It is time.
Many things have happened since my last entry. I took a bold step and performed my one-person show, How Star Wars Saved My Life. Audiences were subjected to my story of being abused, and how one science fiction film did save me from destroying myself. I had no idea how it would be received. It was a success. Truly a success. I was humbled by the responses – here is an example:
The show had a short run. However, the message of hope was strong, and it appears that there will be a very exciting future for the story. I wish I could go in to more detail, but with NDA’s being signed I will have to wait until I am cleared to share what the future holds for my show.
This post is not about that, however. It is about magic – or more specifically – how magic can be a powerful tool for healing, creating and empowering. You see, I went dark after my show – I needed to take a break. I needed to recharge, reconnect, realign and rest. In doing so I realized I am truly happy when I am helping others. I am most happy when I am creating magic for others. I love magic. Please allow me to explain.
Two years ago I was part of a small group of troopers who went to visit a very special girl. Her name is Gemma Bostik. She is really something. I wrote about my visit with her in an earlier blog. It was titled “Beginnings, Z95.3 and Nick the Guy”. That visit changed the way I approach trooping with the 501st Legion. Here is a bit more on Gemma and her life’s adventure to date:
Gemma loved our visit, and this year we were asked to come back and help her celebrate her 8th birthday. It was a bigger event. I attended as a handler (a person who helps others get into costume, look out for them, etc). I was able to watch the characters interact with Gemma and her friends. She was having a blast. The troopers were having a blast. She made them all dance to her favourite song “Uptown Funk”. I watched them dance together: A Stormtrooper, Tusken Raider, Kylo Ren and Boba Fett. She had asked specifically for Kylo Ren to attend her party. She asked us lots of questions. I was not in costume. Instead I was wearing my black BDU Legion shirt with various Star Wars patches. She asked who I was. You see, she believes. She believes in magic – that these characters can visit her, that she is on friendly terms with the Empire. It is something that I believe gives her hope and helps keep that mystery and magic we all love as children. I was slightly taken off guard when she asked me who I was, but I responded that I was their “representative” on Earth. It was a feeble response, but it seemed to work. I realized after that if I was to be a handler for future troops I would need to create something that kept me in the realm of the Star Wars Uniform. An officer costume would be perfect – I could monitor the characters I was handling without being out of place. I now wear the uniform when taking on handler duties. It’s that extra effort that really goes a long way.
Later that night I received an email from Amanda – Gemma’s mom. In her email she wrote that Gemma had a fantastic time and that there was no way she’d be able to top this. Amanda and her husband Charlie go all out for their Gemma because she was not expected to live past one year old. She’s eight as of this year. I pondered over the comment “no way to top this”…..It was time to put magic into action.
I began with my fellow troopers. I asked them if they’d come out to troop a special troop for Gemma again – all replied they would! Great. I thought, we can’t wait for another birthday – it’s too far away. Maybe a few of us could come to their door and give Gemma a “medal of yavin” as a hero medal. Yes, I know you’re thinking “but that’s a rebel medal”. You’re right. It is. But the Empire doesn’t have any medals. I reflected on this. I belong to an international group who dedicate their appearances to raising money for many amazing charities for children. We DON’T have a medal. Giving Gemma a Yavin medal would not be appropriate. After all, they are readily available, easy to get. No. If we were to do this right we would need our own medal. An Imperial Medal. We often gift challenge coins to the children we visit but this has bothered me from time to time. After all, some children are tactile. There is a choking hazard with some coins. Coins can also be easily misplaced or lost. Children, like adults, need touchstones. They need talismans to reassure them things are going to be alright when they go back to the hospital for the umpteenth time. Many of the kids we visit are hospital regulars. Some never leave the hospital. Some don’t come back when they go to the hospital. They need something to let them know it’s all right. Challenge coins can be lost – and if you have ever been with a child when they misplace something they rely upon to calm themselves, to reassure themselves that things are not bad or not scary, then you will know that things can quickly get out of hand. Something that can not be easily lost, that can be nice to look at, that can be held in moments of needing extra reassurance, that is unique and makes them feel special, can be a powerful calming and healing tool. I decided we needed to have our own Imperial medal. Gemma would be the first recipient of the medal. But what would it say. It had to be something that looked like it came from the Empire. I created one that had the phrase “Hero of the galactic empire” forged in the alloy. The ribbon would have to be Imperial colors – so red and black were the obvious choice to me.
Now I had taken care of troopers and a medal. what would be next? I remembered a few years back we inducted a young boy – Wilson – into the garrison. That’s it. I asked our executive and they replied there would be no problem doing that for Gemma. I went over the check list:
Honorary member of the Garrison. Check.
Not too bad for a young girl. What else could we do for her? What if she had her own patch and her own coin? Maybe we could create these for raising money for a charity of her choice. Ok, but now this was getting larger and larger. I tried to get a cartoonist to come up with a fun image of Gemma. He didn’t get it and the image was frightening. I posted my dilemma on facebook. Terry, our former Garrison Captain responded with the question “how can I help”. I shared with him how Gemma’s mom asked her if she was ever to have her own patch, what would she want on it. Gemma responded that she wanted to be in a stormtrooper costume, saluting in her wheelchair while Darth Vader stood behind her in front of a symbol of the new order. A bit of a Star Wars hot mess. Within the hour Terry had nailed the design. Things were coming together. I spoke with Matthew Purdy at Toy Traders. His store is huge and amazing and just happens to be Gemma’s favourite place to go when she’s looking for toys. Matthew didn’t even hesitate and offered his space, created a raffle, and advertised. I asked Amanda what Charity she would like to represent – Muscular Dystrophy. I contacted them. Tiffany, the representative attended the day of the ceremony. The troop became an official 501st troop with many troopers signing up. It became larger. I decided I would have to run the event, meeting Gemma at the door when she arrived and announcing her arrival. Stormtroopers filing in behind us as we approached Lord Vader, Boba Fett, a Tusken, Imperial Guards, TIE Pilots and our Commanding Officer. somehow it went off well. We called ourselves “Gemma’s Squad”. I presented Gemma with her medal.
Gemma had an amazing time. We all did. Her joy and happiness is infectious. That was a few days ago. I then drove up north to Northern FanCon with the 501st. I visited my mom and she told me of another little girl who was a fan of mine (I am not making this up – she loves the Airbud franchise, as well as other Robert Vince movies that I have been somewhat of a regular in). She’s wanted to meet me for years. Just tonight she came by – my niece is one of her caretakers. Her name is Olivia – and like Gemma, she loves Star Wars. I happened to have brought up two other medals, so:
I presented her with her “Hero” medal. Much like Gemma, Olivia is expressive, full of life and has so much to share and we have so much to learn from heroes such as these two. They inspire me to go beyond to create magic. Some say magic isn’t real. But when I see the joy and the happiness in others, it moves me. Gemma and Olivia have medals that are not common. They have medals that they can wear to their hospital visits and that can make them feel proud to be heroes. They are. Both of them are my heroes. I am so honored that I have had the opportunity to present them both with something that makes them feel special, something that is for them. At the end of the day, it’s not about the medals or the stuff, though. It’s about the things we do or say and the actions we take that can make this world a more beautiful and magical place.
Gemma told me at her ceremony that she couldn’t walk. I told her, why walk when you can glide? She liked that.
Olivia doesn’t speak. But her movements and expressions say everything. She is full of energy and is a happy and joyful person.
I have learned a lot about love, joy and happiness in the past few days than I ever thought I could have. The magic that I thought I was creating was not what I expected it to be, for it seems in both these cases, these girls were making magic for me. Their magic, like mine, was earnest.