A Whisper from Behind the Curtain
June 30, 2012
Thousands of hours. Tens of thousands of emails. Five titles (three that stuck). 34 months and 2 days. Tons of decisions made and advice given. Hundreds of articles designed and posted for the various general MJTP Admin profiles (both belonging to individual team members and those not "owned" by any of us), in addition to my own (some of which I have since bade farewell to). Communication with people in tens of languages, well enough that we understood each other, thanks to Google Translate, when a human translator wasn’t available. Lots of inside info. Involvement in most of the projects, events and initiatives this tribute has spearheaded. And yes, money, an amount I choose not to publicly disclose, donated to help pay for things like bills, or direct sponsorship, Facebook advertising, and charitable efforts.
We don’t normally announce a departure, and unlike David, without whom there would be no portrait; or Linda, whose articles are read by many; or Valmai, Debby, Heather, and any of the rest of the magazine crew, whose team effort publishes a pretty cool online magazine each month; or any of the other active team members for that matter (three of whom are mostly behind the scenes: Theronda, Jenna and our Volunteers Coordinator, Denise), I figured I could “retire” as a team member unnoticed, because I’m not in front of the scenes so much.
However, a dear friend who has been around this tribute for about as long as I have, has some “clout” with the team and the members, and is aware of some of what I do, told me that I should post something as I reach the end of my time as an MJTP team member. So, while you now know a very general idea of what I’ve done during my time on the team, and while I won’t disclose any of the “juicy” inside stories here, I will tell you a little about what brought me here, and what I hope to do next.
I am one of the “they” who has remained mostly behind the scenes, mostly anonymous, doing what I’ve done for the tribute, for the website, for the fans, for the project, for charities, for Michael. I won’t list specifically all of what I’ve done, not only because that would take a long time, get boring for you and for me, and seem a bit arrogant on my part, but because it isn’t necessary. While I prefer that others do not take credit for my hard work or minimize what I do, I also don’t necessarily do what I do to be recognized by anyone. For better or worse, who I am doesn’t matter; it’s what I do that that counts. That’s a philosophy I’ve lived by for a long time, even if it has bitten me a few times.
When I first heard of the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait in July 2009 while on the MJFC website, I was intrigued. But I had to read more about it before I could get really excited, because there were so many tributes back then, most of which were celebrating Michael Jackson the entertainer. I love Michael Jackson’s talent – every aspect of it. To me, there is no question: he is the greatest entertainer there ever was or ever can be! But I really love Michael Jackson the man, the gentle soul he was, the humanitarian. I firmly believe that God gave that man multiple gifts of talent, and having gotten the world’s attention before he was a teenager, Michael used that talent to deliver God’s divine messages of love every chance he got, in a way that only someone with the purest of hearts can do.
Something on the MJTP’s early brief write-up jumped out at me, similar to the current line, “Michael Jackson, the humanitarian, inspires one-of-a-kind global art project.” This tribute mentioned Michael’s humanitarianism and carrying on his legacy. Right up my alley; between all the great teachers I’ve recognized in my life, including (but not limited to), Gandhi; Mother Teresa; Martin Luther King, Jr.; Jesus; Buddha; Michael Jackson; and – number one – God, I have a pretty good foundation to build upon, and to “do good” is something I’ve tried to do every day for as long as I can remember (and I beat myself up when I, far less than perfect, end up “doing bad”).
Soon after I learned of the tribute, I volunteered to help at the first two MJTP events during the weekend of Michael’s birthday in 2009, and it was decided at the end of that second day that I should become an official team member. I jumped right in and went from helping a couple of hours a day (as planned) to more like between 8 and 14 hours a day, every day, while also keeping a full-time job. When they could get my attention, I had to answer to friends and family as to why I was spending so much time on this, away from them. Well, because there was that much work for me to do back then, and I could always find more that I wanted to start or tweak!
Pouring myself into this project – to an admittedly insane degree – helped me in a way. MJ was part of my childhood, and when he passed, my parents called me from Los Angeles, my hometown, to see how I was doing. They’d send me clippings from the paper, tell me about specials on TV in case I hadn’t already heard, and were totally understanding of my weepiness, because they knew how much I loved him as a kid. When I went to L.A. to help in August, it was my dad who acted as my taxi service, taking me to and from the events. Beginning the first week of September 2009 ave become involved in charitable efforts because of this tribute, and I like to think that I (along with others, of course) had some part in helping to make that happen. That’s what I wanted when I signed up as a team member. Even if I haven’t solved the world’s problems, I hope I’ve helped in my own small way.
But back to why I got involved at all. I liked the idea of being part of something big, something meaningful for Michael, working through my grief over our loss of Michael Jackson, while also maybe helping others through their grief, bringing thousands of people with something (someone) big in common together from all over the world. Many new friendships have been made because of this project, some people have learned more about Michael Jackson, some have become involved in charitable efforts because of this tribute, and I like to think that I (along with others, of course) had some part in helping to make that happen. That’s what I wanted when I signed up as a team member. Even if I haven’t solved the world’s problems, I hope I’ve helped in my own small way.
In time, things slowed down a bit, right around when a couple of very helpful people took over some of what I was doing, which allowed me to focus more on technical things and further develop some of the humanitarian aspects of the tribute, which is what I cared about most. I figured tens of thousands of MJ fans on this site could make a tidal wave of a difference out there in the world. A lot of what you see (and don't see) that is charity-focused on the MJTP site has my fingerprints all over it.
I’ve learned a lot during my time on the team, from fun things like being able to correctly identify a written foreign language even if I don’t understand it, to having a lot more patience than I thought I had in me. I’ve learned a lot more about people and cultures from all over the world, as well as some very valuable lessons about people in general. I’ve learned that while I’m still quite shy, I don’t need to let that hold me back so much when it comes to doing what makes my heart sing. I’ve learned additional technical skills, all self-taught I might add. I’ve learned (again) to always listen to my intuition, and that, combined with my heightened sense of empathy, will keep me on the right path. I've learned that while I'm usually pretty good at trusting my gut, I still needed further lessons in discernment, and those are lessons that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I am definitely an observer, and I soak it all up like a sponge.
I have no idea what my purpose in life is; I am pretty sure it isn’t what I thought it was when I was younger, which was that somehow, I was going to change the world in a big way. But I don’t let that deflect me from what I can do. I believe we can all do our part; I’m going to do mine. Something has been gently calling out to me for over a year now. I don’t know what exactly it is, but I’m finally ready to give it my full attention and see what’s next on this spiritual journey we call life. It’s time for me to take the things I’ve learned, unfurl my wings, and fly. I don’t know exactly where I will land, but I have a feeling it involves doing good, maybe with a charity, and with any luck, it will be something involving Michael professionally, for close to 3 years. It’s not common that someone can put that sort of trust in someone who not only do they not know well, but, for the work done for you, most aren’t being paid; as we know with Michael Jackson, even “friends” who were paid for their work turned out to be untrustworthy. You took a huge chance with me, and having my own issues with trusting people, I thank you for believing in me. I hope I made you proud of the work and contributions I made for you, the team, the members and other beneficiaries, and of course for Michael, while you create this work of art.
I hope my work on the tribute has made Michael proud and that in some small way, I have successfully helped to carry on his legacy. Because I believe in God and an afterlife, I believe that MJ could have been watching any move I made, heard any word I said, or knew and felt what was in my heart at any given moment. I know I’ve kept him in my heart all along. And as I take the next path that God is leading me to, I’ll still have this love for MJ, and I hope that he’d be proud of whatever I do next. He was one of my teachers, after all.
So, to finally bring this long goodbye to an end, I leave you with two things:
1. Years ago, long before 2009, I came up with a quote that sort of sums up what I believe and what I try to do, as a way of inspiring me to keep at it:
“Let your soul plant its love like a seed into the hearts of all beings in this world. Then breathe love and life into that seed every day, and watch it grow.”
I have planted seeds all over this tribute, from small little specks of seeds, to great big acorn-sized seeds, and I’ve watched them grow. From seedlings, to fruits, to those they nourish, it’s usually unknown or later forgotten who the gardener was, but I’ve enjoyed watching when they sprout. Some yield a tiny crop, some quite large, but even a seed that fails has its place in teaching the gardener a lesson. Sometimes I don’t get to see whether it grows or not; I only get to plant the seed and hope and pray for the best. Maybe years later it will finally take root. Now it’s time for me to start a new garden “out there.”
2. Here is a song called, “In Our Small Way,” from Michael’s first solo album, Got to Be There. (This is not my video; I randomly found it on YouTube when looking for the song to include here.) As with many of Michael’s songs, it inspires me to nourish the seed Michael planted in my heart a long time ago.
With love and gratitude,
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