It is no secret that commercialism has dominated our holidays for several years, but there is another side to giving besides buying gifts for friends and family. It is one that is rare in today’s society and that is why when I hear a story like this, I have to write about it. It is about the true spirit of giving of yourself and the happiness it can bring.
There are many unsung heroes in our communities and as my readers know, I’ve written about a few. Today it’s my pleasure to relate another special story about a person whose very nature is to give to others.
He is one of the popular members of the wait staff of The Capital Grille in Cherry Hill NJ and is a fellow of many talents. As Los Angeles Writing Examiner I generally present stories about local people in the writing community and I know that Cherry Hill is nowhere near L.A., but he is the son of a Los Angeles author and lived in Marina Del Rey, then South Bay and later Gardena for many years, so I’m pushing the envelope.
When I heard this story I found myself wiping tears from my eyes. You see, besides being a waiter who has always made every dining experience memorable for his customers, he is a talented artist who also holds a black belt in Karate and loves to work with building kids’ values. Last year he created a portrait of two of his favorite customers as a surprise anniversary gift.
A few months ago he was approached by the daughter of a customer who had seen his work. She asked if he would do a family portrait for her to give to her father as a Christmas gift. It was the beginning of the holiday season and he was pulling double shifts, which meant he didn’t get home until well after midnight. Doing the portrait after those long days meant he would be working about one hundred hours a week until it was finished. That just wasn’t in the cards and although he didn’t want to disappoint her, he had to tell her he wouldn’t be able to.
However, something kept tugging at him–an internal voice telling him he was supposed to do it. Finally, he contacted her and said if she could give him photographs to guide him, he would work on it after he came home from his regular job. She delivered the photos and from that time on he truly “burned the midnight oil” as the saying goes. Although he was tired after already working so many hours, he could be found bent over his drawing board until as late as 3 a.m. He was determined to finish the portrait in time for Christmas.
After Christmas he received this text message:
Thank you so very much!! The composite is just BEAUTIFUL! i thought it would be impossible to smile today, but thanks to you and my kids, I did. You warmed my heart and made me feel the love of family that I had w/ my dad. Words cannot express what we are feeling now after opening your gift. It comes at a such a great time. :)
He learned the girl’s grandfather had died recently and the family had approached the holidays with lagging spirits. They didn’t know how they could summon the joy they should have. How could they laugh and celebrate when he was no longer with them? Then her father opened her gift and saw the faces of his family smiling back at him. He looked up from the portrait with tears of joy. Each of the family members who viewed the portrait felt this joy invade their souls and their spirits lifted. The wonderful gift penetrated the shroud of sadness that had overshadowed the closeness of this family and was the highlight of the gathering.
When the daughter had picked up the portrait and asked how much she owed, despite the long hours the artist spent he could not and would not accept payment. As he told me, he couldn’t charge for something he was picked to do. After she called and he received the text message, he knew his payment was the happiness he had given a family that had suffered a terrible loss.
He texted back:
It is amazing that we meet people in our lives for reasons. Now I know why I met you and your family. It was for the gift you are sharing today. God bless you and if you need anything in this time, just ask.
People who saw the portrait insisted he should be doing something more with his art. His answer: “I am doing something with it, I’m using my art to make people happy.”
He told me his grandmother had planted that idea in his head when he was a young man of eighteen or so during the time he was an art major in college. He’d begun working as a waiter to make money for his expenses and would share stories with her about things he’d done during that day to bring a smile to his customers’ faces. She said, “Honey, your job isn’t slapping burgers down on a table, it’s making people happy.”
There is one detail I saved for last. I’ve known this artist, Jason Pransky, all of his life. He is my youngest son and he has been the embodiment of giving to others since he was a small child. What he did for this family was just one more thing that is typical of his beautiful spirit. I am so proud to call him my son. When I told him that after hearing this story, he thanked me through his own tears.
Now there is something you, as my readers, can do. His birthday is tomorrow, December 29. I think it would be awesome if after reading this column you would visit his Facebook page and send him birthday greetings.
Spotlight appears every Tuesday in the Las Vegas edition of lodeplus.com and every Wednesday in the Los Angeles edition. Writers tricks of the trade appears every Thursday in the Las Vegas edition and every Friday in the Los Angeles edition and will resume on January 5. A suggestion for Spotlight or the monthly Writers’ Tricks of the Trade newsletter magazine, please contact Morgan St. James.
More information about Morgan St. James www.morganstjames-author.com and www.silversistersmysteries.com and http://writerstricksofthetrade.blogspot.com