Ben was in a talent show at the local toy store last year.
When I asked him what he’d like to do, he said he’d like to perform one of his songs. His “songs” at the time were a mashup of jewish folk tunes and heavy metal. The likes of which this world might never have seen before!
He practiced outside the toy store with me, “Hine ma tov uma-na-im… (and now insert growly, deep, heavy metal voice) shevet achim gam yavat…”
It was, in short, awesome.
Ben was so excited to get on stage when we entered the store that he insisted on MC’ing the whole thing and asked if he could perform first. As I sat in the audience with my iphone video all ready to go, I saw the surprise in his eyes. It was fear but it was also surprise at how scared he actually was. He didn’t expect this at all! As a result of the sheer, unexpected terror, nothing came out of his mouth.
You can do it! all of us called out. The entire room of kids cheered him on. But he crumpled, literally, and fell to the ground. I can’t do it! he shouted from the floor.
Another kid went instead and did a fart song by putting her hand inside her armpit. (Super impressive I might add) Then a boy who was great at yo-yo did his thing.
Ben was ready to try again. I readied my camera, said a little prayer and all of us cheered again, but he was terrified and ran off the stage.
“Try starting with your back to us!” I encouraged, and that seemed to help. He started his song with his back to the audience and eventually mustered up the courage to turn around. He improvised a song, a hilarious mix of metal and rap and jewishness, and we all cheered when it was over.
He was a bit mortified by the whole thing.
But here’s what I want to share with you: Ben is now LEGENDARY at Mr. Mopp’s toy store in Berkeley. Every time we go in there, the owner says, “Ben! We loved your song at the talent show! You have a lot of fans here.” Other employees will literally come out of the back and gather around. “Ben is here! Yeah, the one from the talent show!”
They love him.
And my guess is that they love him because he was brave.
They love him because he was human.
He was afraid and he went for it anyway.
He sang a song, his song. And even though he couldn’t quite look anyone in the eyes when he did it, he did it anyway.
Ben once asked me what a legend was. I told him it was someone that people talked about for many years after they were gone, even hundreds of years, because they were so extraordinary. “Like Jesus?” he asked. “Yes. Like Jesus. And Miles Davis.”
“I want to be a legend,” he told me.
I think he’s well on his way. And he is teaching me that being brave + vulnerable is key. The crowd loves you all the more for it.