Sunday, September 22, 2013

It's A Beautiful Day

This post starts with one of those extraordinary ordinary stories. You've had a similar experience, if you're fortunate. You've heard this story before and you're destined to hear it again. Why do these stories return in our lives again and again? I had to contemplate that question for a few days. The answer came to me a few mornings ago, while I was out pretending to be a runner.

They return time and again because they are the truth and because we forget the truth. They return to remind us to live the truth. As you know, I believe living the truth is particularly important for creative people. We are the truth seekers and the truth tellers. The world needs us, especially now, as we are surrounded by boatloads of hype (like Lose 10 Pounds in 2 Days) and fabrications of epic proportions (like How Safe Are You, Really?).

Here's the story.

On the morning of Wednesday, September 11, I attended the wake of my neighbor, Ed McBride. I didn't really know Ed all that well because we only met on morning walks. Until recently, I saw him almost every single morning. I knew that Ed was Irish. That was obvious the second he said hello, as his melodious Irish brogue oozed through every word. I also knew that Ed was a complete, 100% optimist. He was unfailingly positive, which shone through the one phrase he always said to me. That phrase, which usually came in the form of a question, had only one answer, at least from Ed's viewpoint. The phrase?

It's a beautiful day, isn't it?”

The day could be completely gray, 37 degrees with the chance of sleet, traffic could be zooming by, road rage emitting from every vehicle and Ed's first response would still be -

It's a beautiful day, isn't it?”

As you can imagine, there were days when I would see Ed coming towards me and I would think “Oh man, here comes Ed and he's going to tell me what a beautiful day today is. I've got 7 hours of teaching ahead of me, 23 emails that need answering and I really want to practice for next week's performance. The Teen is ornery again and 3 of my students have cancelled at the last minute – this does NOT feel like a beautiful day to me.”

But, I have to admit, hearing Ed ask that simple question would remind me that the possibility existed that today was a beautiful day. I'd walk away feeling lighter and positive, even if only for a few minutes. The seed planted, Ed would go on his way, looking for another potential victim of his positive outlook.


Ed and I live on the iconic Main Line, outside of Philadelphia. Life here is full and fast. Overachievers abound. You cannot be successful enough or rich enough here. There are captains of industry in the produce section at the grocery store and high-powered attorneys in front of you at the coffee shop. Retired professional athletes show up at the local car wash. The fast and furious lifestyle is advocated, and if you join in, you can stay. If you don't ascribe to that lifestyle, you can stay, but make sure you stay out of the way, because we are going places - NOW. 

Ed McBride, on a regular basis, took his Irish heritage pin and popped the Main Line fast and furious lifestyle balloon. What mattered to Ed is what should matter to all of us. You, him and the fact that today was a beautiful day. Didn't matter the weather, didn't matter the traffic, didn't matter the to-do list, didn't matter the existential yearnings of your soul, didn't matter nothing, every day was a beautiful day to Ed McBride and he would make sure that you understood how important that was.

I hadn't seen Ed for a few months. He was a part of that unique subset of people in my life. You probably have a similar subset. These are the people you see on a regular basis as you go about your life.  You see them on your way to work, on the train, in the parking lot, in the Dunkin' Donuts. They're very much a part of your life, but you know very little about them. So I wasn't completely surprised when I saw Ed's obituary in the newspaper.

Serendipitously, I had the morning of Ed's wake open. And I knew exactly how to attend. In honor of my relationship to Ed, I strolled up to the local Catholic church in my walking clothes. Don't worry, I put on some makeup. Walking to Ed's wake in my walking clothes was, as I told my neighbor, my tribute to Ed. Besides, Ed didn't know me any other way!

I didn't know who would be there, if anyone. A 73-year-old single man, with strong roots to Ireland? Ed was super-friendly, but what if everyone was like me and only knew him peripherally? Would others take the time to say goodbye to Ed, if their relationship consisted of a friendly, brief conversation during morning walks?

Yes, they would and yes, they did. There were plenty of people there and in the surprise of the day, there were quite a few people that I knew from other areas of my life. I immediately gravitated to the group of 5 or 6 women, all attractive middle-age women. Care to guess how we all met Ed? You got it. On our daily walks. And what did we all remember hearing Ed say? Yup -

It's a beautiful day, isn't it?”

We were all touched by this simple commonality. One guy and one simple thought that had touched each one of us deeply. We basked in the beauty of that moment. We did. All of our concerns about our kids, our careers, our sagging bodies, they were gone for that moment because Ed had reminded us that today was a beautiful day.

What does the passing of Ed McBride have to do with Creatavita?

It's the connection, you guys, it's the connection. At the core of everything we do is the desire to connect with other humans. Ed did it on a person-to-person basis. Whether you do it for one person with your painting, or 17 people with your Tuesday evening performance or 10,000 at your Madison Square Garden concert, that doesn't matter. It's the connection.

So, as you go about your connecting today and every day, whether practicing, performing, designing, sketching, dreaming, remember....

It's A Beautiful Day

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