Today is May 6 and the Navigate the Chaos question of the day to consider is “how often do you give away a poster?” A Nigerian proverb states “It is the heart that does the giving; the fingers only let go.” Today’s reflection provides us with an opportunity to reflect upon how often we give away something of value to others. One strategy people have used to navigate the chaos of life involves being generous. Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow noted “Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.” Such was the case with Broadway actor Doug Storm.
After moving to New York City in his 20's, Storm performed on Broadway in Les Miserables, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Dance of the Vampires, Chess for the Actors Fund, and Jekyll & Hyde. Storm has been involved with numerous developmental readings & workshops including but not limited to Disney's Tarzan, The Civil War, & Heathers. He has also worked as a director, teacher, and performance coach with kids across the country, including professional child performers from Broadway's Lion King, Beauty & the Beast, Ragtime, and Les Miserables, dramatherapy with at-risk youth in Brooklyn, and children of A-list celebrities. In the book Making It On Broadway, Storm tells the story of a poster he gave away.
"I was with the national tour of Les Miserables, and we were performing in Salt Lake City. At the time, we were doing the poster sales. If someone donated $50, they would receive a poster signed by the entire cast. After one performance, I was in costume selling posters and noticed a little girl who was looking at me like I was the Messiah. I heard her say, ‘Please, Mom, please, please, can I have a poster? Her mom said no, and they walked away. It was a moment I will never forget. In my left ear, quite distinctly, I heard a little whisper that said, ‘Go, Doug, go.’
In full wardrobe I ran outside and found the mother and daughter. As I approached the girl, I said, ‘Excuse me.’ She turned around, and just stared. ‘You forgot your poster.’ I handed her a poster, and I was gone. A few days later, there was a letter that showed up on the call board that read: ‘Dear cast of Les Miserables, you moved me so much. Thank you. I also want to thank you for giving my daughter the poster. I don't know who you were, but it was a nice young man, and he was gone before anyone could say thank you. Let me tell you a little about my daughter. She is sick. She was not expected to live past a very young age. She always wanted to see Les Miserables. They even snuck her out of the hospital that night so she could see the show. The tickets were a gift from a family friend. I am a single mom. Money is very tight. It broke my heart to not be able to buy the poster for my daughter. Thank you so much, whoever you are. Thank you, thank you, thank you.’ The whole cast was standing around weeping. I didn't say a word.
Four years later, the night before The Scarlet Pimpernel closed, I remember being bitter and jaded. Soon, I would unemployed again. Out of nowhere, at the stage door, I heard a little voice. ‘Mr. Storm?’ I thought, ‘Oh, God, who's calling me Mr. Storm for crying out loud?’ I looked down. I froze. It was that same little girl. She said ‘Hi. I knew you were in the show because I've been following it on the Internet. I brought you a little package. Here's a card.’ "Oh, my gosh, how are you doing? Do you want to come in? Are you seeing the show tonight?" "No," she said. "I'm not seeing the show tonight. I'm seeing it tomorrow. I'm seeing the last one." I said, "Why don't you come around tomorrow before the show? I'll take you backstage." I went upstairs and started putting on my makeup. I stopped for a second to read her card. "I just want to let you know that I've just been accepted to NYU Tisch School of the Arts for Drama, and I'm going to enroll because someday I want to give a kid a poster. Thank you for helping shape my life.’ I lost it. In a moment of my own despair and selfish jaded bitterness, there was that kid. Everything came full circle. That alone is why I got into this business."
Leveraging your mind, body, and spirit to put in the daily grind over years to translate one dream after another demands self-discipline, dedication, and stamina. Doing so, however, does not need to come at the cost of your generosity. You can be a kind, loving, and giving person and still navigate the chaos. Doug Storm learned that firsthand when he gave away that poster to a little girl who grew up to be a woman attending college studying theater.
Are you aware enough to notice those in your life looking up to you (as the girl did to Storm?)
Do you have the self-awareness to listen to your inner voice (as Storm did when his voice told him to go give the poster)?
Do you have the character to remain anonymous after being so generous (as Storm did while the cast read the mother’s letter)?
How often do you recognize your own despair and selfish jaded bitterness (as Storm did)?
How often do you reflect upon the impact your life has on others (as Storm did reading the young woman’s letter)?
How often do you remind yourself not to sacrifice your generous spirit as you put in the daily grind of translating one dream after another into reality?