Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Be Like Mike - Bridget Moore Rowley

I was such a cliché really….I know that now….like far too many others, I took Michael Jackson and his Genius for granted while he was among the living…you see, I was born in 1958 like Mike….I’m a few months older actually and had recently turned 51 when he died just short of the same age…the reason this is important to my story is that Michael was on Earth pretty much exactly the same time I have been…but the impact of this fact wouldn’t become significant to me until a full half century later.
When I was 10, I was just a little white girl from a tiny town on the coast of Washington State and as about as far away from Gary, Indiana and Motown and the life that a little 10 year old black boy name Michael Jackson was living as I possibly could have been…but I remember dancing my little socks off at a slumber party with my girlfriends, as we alternated playing “ABC” by The Jackson 5 and “One Bad Apple” by The Osmonds over and over and over again, until we literally dropped from exhaustion…and when we woke up, as the sunlight streamed through the windows, we ate a big breakfast and started in all over again…yes, Michael found me for awhile back then….but then I lost him until I went to college during the late 70’s, which I fondly remember as the height of the Disco Era…”Off the Wall” hit me hard and “Thriller” followed…I was still very impressed with him, but by then I was getting married and starting a family…somehow the rest of his albums sort of fell off my radar as my five children were born during those 14 years…and that’s when, unbeknownst to me, I became the Classic Michael Jackson Cliché…I lost him….I bought into whatever the Media spoon fed me about his eccentricities and even supposed “crimes”….I laughed at the awful Jacko jokes…I cringed at the unflattering photos of his plastic surgery gone awry…I remember standing in front of my TV, watching him as he turned himself into the police in Santa Barbara, so certain that he just HAD to be guilty….and how sickening it made me feel that this musical phenomenon had become such a caricature of his former great self…I can now see what that makes me…but then? I didn’t have a clue.
Fast forward to June 25, 2009….I hear The News…I am gobstruck!….literally SHOCKED at how hard it hits me….I remember saying to several people, “It feels so weird to be living in a Michael Jackson-less world”…and the cliché continues…I start in with the YouTubing (which, by the way, was a first for me)…I soon become an expert at that and Googling and hunting down every other website I could get my hands on, as I find myself more and more drawn to Everything Michael….more and more surprised at what I’m finding out about him…The Real Michael Jackson….and what I was finding out about myself….I had opened a door.
July 7, 2009….Michael’s Memorial…by then, it was a foregone conclusion that I would be planted in front of my set…unfortunately made possible by the fact that I was in the middle of a six-month layoff from my job at the time….but it was a vulnerable time for me, as I didn’t realize then that I would later be asked back to my job…perhaps that was a factor in what was happening to me…my personal life was not in a good space…not only didn’t I know the answers to what was wrong in my life, I didn’t even really know the questions…but somehow, Michael had found me again…still, I had no idea what was about to transpire…as I watched his service, I wept openly…I cried not only for him…I cried for me….I realized what an awful person I had been…I was utterly ashamed of myself….but I began to let Michael’s beauty and love pour over me….unsure of what it all would come to mean to me, I boldly walk through that door I’d opened the day he died.
November 1, 2009…the day I saw the film, “This Is It”, for the first time…it had been a few months since Michael’s death, but in the interim, my zeal to keep this warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart alive hadn’t waned one bit…but nothing, NOTHING prepared me for how this film would impact my life…ten minutes in, one hand jumped up to my heart as the other was left to wipe away the tears…and there they stayed for the duration of the film…as I left the theatre, I felt like my DNA had been changed…I was not the same person that had walked into that theatre a couple of hours earlier….that door I had walked through in July? It slammed shut behind me and I never intend to look back…

There was a sense of hope renewed in my soul. I felt blessed. I felt like I had witnessed not only genius, but a vision of humanity I’d never seen before. In a word, I felt happy…for the first time in a long time, I felt contentment….as I watched his life and talent celebrated, I no longer mourned him. Instead, I felt called by him…I felt Chosen. But what does a person who feels Chosen by Michael do? I still had no clue what was to come.
The holidays were fast approaching. My family asked me what I wanted for Christmas…all I asked for were things related to Michael….books, CD’s, DVD’s….my oldest daughter gave me this beautiful cloth covered box that just happened to be the perfect size to house the gifts I’d received….it wasn’t intentional…but the cloth on the box was Black and White.
But before all that, in mid-December, something really unusual happened to me. I was in a bookstore…perusing their collection of MJ books, I’m sure…as I walked out of the store, I was instantly panhandled by a homeless person…as was my normal practice, I’m ashamed to admit, I really didn’t even consider for a moment to stop and give him something….I started walking down the sidewalk and as crazy as I know this will make me clear as a bell, I heard Michael’s voice in my head…he said, “Stop! Go Back! Give him something!”…I froze in my steps, dumbfounded by what was occurring…these things just don’t happen to me! I shook my head and opened my wallet…there was a ten dollar bill and two ones…but money is always tight for me…Christmas was coming and I have a big family for whom to pull Christmas together…I kept walking….about ten feet later, again I hear Michael’s voice in my head…it is louder, more insistent, more demanding, “Stop! Go Back! He has nothing! You have so much more than him!”…I spun around, feeling almost a pushing sensation at the small of my back…I thought to myself, “OK, I’ll give him the two dollars then and keep the ten for my own needs”…but as I approached the man, I really saw him for the first time…he wasn’t all that old…maybe 30…yet he looked so far gone….not high or drunk….just hopeless….I came right up to him and before I knew it, I said, “Merry Christmas…from Michael Jackson!” and I dumped the contents of my wallet into his hands…the entire $12 and all the change too!
The man looked down at the money in his hands and I could see him processing what I’d just said….he then looked back up at me and our eyes met…if you could have seen the look he gave me….he knew…he knew what I meant…he then gave me the biggest smile and wished me a Merry Christmas, thanking me profusely…as I walked away, to be perfectly honest, it felt like my feet weren’t even touching the ground….and it was probably the best feeling I had that entire Christmas season.
I now realized that this is what it meant to be “chosen” by Michael….it meant that I was to look for ways to positively impact others…even in the smallest of ways….but as often as I can…but how does that really happen? Well, to start, I just try to be more intentional. I try to consciously think of ways to find what I call my Michael Moments…for instance, when I’m checking out at the grocery store and am asked if I want to add an extra buck to my bill for a charity, I always say yes and I write Michael’s name, not mine, on the little sign they put up…for I realized that in performing my Daily Acts of Kindness in Michael’s name, I am not only atoning for my previous judgments of him and but I can incrementally help vindicate his name, which was so completely and unfairly maligned by the Media, The World and formerly, myself…I now stop at the end of off ramps and pull out a buck for the Sign People…always with a smile…always invoking Michael’s name as I do…it is such a beautiful feeling and so much more valuable to me than whatever dollar amount I’m giving away…And at the entrance of my church, there is a book that anyone can sign with a name of a person for whom you’d like prayers to be said, which is brought forward to the altar later during the Mass and offered to God…the priest says a prayer over the book on behalf of the entire parish and we all pray for everyone in that book…so I sign Michael’s name in it every week….my parish has no clue they are collectively praying for Michael Jackson and it’s the best part of my week!

I believe with all my heart that Michael Jackson was not only a beautiful gift from God, but perhaps a messenger from Him, as well….God imbued Michael with more talent, compassion and love than perhaps anyone before or after him….and placed him in the world at the perfect time when technology could impact the globe like never before….and there was a reason for this…I believe that Michael’s life was meant to grab our attention…to show, by the example that Michael always tried to set, the heights of humanity and in Michael’s persecution by his fellow man, the depths of inhumanity….I believe Michael Jackson truly was a musical prophet…we must learn the lessons of his life, apply them to our own and like him, always strive to become the best we can possibly be…to pursue excellence…to work hard….to appreciate family and friends….to be non-judgmental….or in other words…. to Be Like Mike.

Aug. 31, 2010

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely beautiful! Thank you so so much for writing this Bridget Rowley and to Michael's Symphony for posting it. I'll never forget the days when we alternated "ABC" and "One Bad Apple" until we dropped from exhaustion and the sheer joy of dancing ourselves silly. And there is nothing that can explain what happened in 2009 when This Is It quite literally took our breath away and revealed artistic genius and true humanity like we've never even imagined before. If only we had woken up sooner...