Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another chapter of Grateful Heart Monday, where I find gratitude in my life to focus on and start my week off on a positive note, which for today is for Kodi Lee, a blind and autistic contestant on this year’s America’s Got Talent who is incredibly inspiring and gifted beyond belief.

I’ve been watching America’s Got Talent now for about 7 years and usually find myself looking forward to the beginning of summer each year, as that’s when a new season always begins for the show. It’s the only reality type of show I continue to watch and that’s because I enjoy being inspired by the many ways people in this world are gifted with some type of unique talent.

While America’s Got Talent has definitely highlighted plenty of that, it also occasionally places negative emphasis on acts that are either downright ridiculous with people doing silly things to get their few minutes of fame or people who in their own right mind feel they are talented, but in this show’s standards, are really not. So, when the final act of the first episode of the season began, with a guy being led out on stage by his mother, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Frankly, I probably thought what a lot of people did at that moment, which was wondering what kind of talent a 22-year-old guy who was blind and autistic could actually have. After all, he really wasn’t able to effectively communicate to the judges when asked questions before his act began, other than offering one-or-two-word answers, and he constantly was rocking back and forth like many who are autistic.

Nevertheless, his mother explained Kodi was going to play the piano and sing for everyone, as that was his greatest passion. After sitting down and playing a few random keys on the piano that sort of reminded me of what a little kid might do the first time they placed their hands on an instrument, I found myself feeling a little nervous as I didn’t want the audience to boo this guy or give him any bit of negative energy. Sadly, there have been many times this does happen on America’s Got Talent, which honestly, is probably the one thing I don’t like about the show, because anyone stepping foot on a stage in front of several thousand people is quite a feat in itself, but trying to demonstrate a talent they really believe in themselves is far more of a feat.

So, as Kodi began to play, my heart fluttered somewhat in fear for him, that was until he started singing. Immediately, my jaw dropped and tears proceeded to fall from my eyes. The way Kodi played on those piano keys and the way his voice soothed my soul, words couldn’t ultimately describe what I was feeling in my heart. All I know is that I felt the presence of God during his two or so minute performance and it was then that I realized that no matter how bad my life and my health may be, that God has a specific talent within us all that is meant to inspire others somehow.

Kodi Lee’s talent is something I find myself weeks later still thinking about. How can someone who is blind and autistic be so darn amazing! I have never in seven years of watching America’s Got Talent, EVER SEEN SUCH A GIFT in someone with such limitations in life! When Kodi got the season’s first golden buzzer, which guarantees him a live show appearance, I pretty much became a blubbering idiot and was kind of glad I was watching it alone. My partner Chris, who had watched it already earlier that evening had told me it was one of the best episodes he’s ever watched and I honestly didn’t know why he said that, that was until Kodi’s performance.

It’s pretty easy in this world to overlook someone like Kodi Lee and count them out before they even get a chance to prove themselves. Given he doesn’t have that Hollywood look or persona, one could pass Kodi on the streets and feel sorry for him just by what they see. But Kodi reminded me of why all of us should NEVER, EVER, focus on what we see with our eyes, and instead look to what’s beneath all that. Because beneath Kodi’s exterior is a piece of God that just inspired millions and millions of people in a way, that only God could make happen in my humble opinion.

I’m truly grateful for Kodi Lee and his incredible talent and will most certainly be rooting for him to win this season now. He single-handedly gave me enough inspiration to keep going and never count myself out, no matter how much my body and health continues to be riddled in pain and anguish. Because maybe, just maybe, I have a talent within me too, even in my current unfortunate circumstances of life, that one day will inspire many others as well, just like blind and autistic 22-year-old Kodi Lee is doing right now on America’s Got Talent Season 14…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Rocketman”, An Elton John Biopic That Totally Changed My Tune About The Man And His Music

I really have never been much into Elton John’s music, even though he is a great singer and song artist, as his style and genre just hasn’t ever been my cup of tea so to speak. But that being said, it’s funny how a movie can change all that and create a profound appreciation for someone that was never there before. After catching an early release of “Rocketman”, a biopic about Elton John’s life, starring Taron Egerton as the famed musician, I suddenly find myself seeing him and his music in a totally different light.

For years, I overlooked this man who screamed flamboyancy and the words “pay attention to me” in any appearance I ever saw him in. On some level for me, it was always a turn off and probably a big reason why I avoided listening to his music more than not. Yet, after watching “Rocketman”, I now understand a lot more about why he became such a showy person. And truth be told, by the end of the movie, I saw myself in his very shoes.

Having grown up in a household where he was neglected, unloved, and unappreciated by both his mother and father, and spending years of his life deep in the closet, Elton John created a stage persona that was essentially a chameleon-like response solely in an attempt to erase that painfulness of his childhood. Sadly, I know all too well about becoming a chameleon, as I did it myself between the ages of 17 to 37. Nevertheless, no matter how deep Elton John tried to hide himself behind his own fabricated stripes, a dedicated friend and songwriter, Bernie Taupin, played so incredibly well by Jamie Bell, consistently stuck by his side, even when the talented singer was at his worst. Taupin reminded me much of my best friend Cedric who too remained by my side through thick and thin through all my addiction-fueled years.

And speaking of addiction-fueled years, besides being something I saw I had in common with Elton John, “Rocketman” did an amazing job portraying the sad plight of a fallen addict. You see, the more Elton John tried to suppress his pain and his past behind his extravagant stage persona and chameleon-like stripes, the harder his partying became and the greater his blackouts grew, until he finally realized one day he couldn’t run from it anymore. Deep down, like so many other addicts eventually discover, he saw he couldn’t run from the pain anymore and understood he was going to die from it until he faced it head on.

Thankfully, Elton John did just that and found sobriety in his own life, having over 28 years of sobriety now from alcohol and drugs, which in of itself is an incredible achievement I never knew about him. Maybe that’s exactly why my tune has now changed of a man who I once constantly shrugged my shoulders towards each time I saw him sport louder and louder outfits and extreme showiness.

While I wouldn’t put “Rocketman” and recent Freddie Mercury Biopic “Bohemiam Rhapsody” in the same league, I can definitely see the similarities between both, in the films themselves, as well as in each of their lives too. Both Mercury and John struggled to like themselves and heal from painful pasts, using plenty of alcohol and drugs along the way to numb the pain until the pain became great enough. I can so relate to spending years trying to run from pain, all while placing an image out there for others to see that they would like, even though deep down I didn’t like myself at all.

I’m still learning to like myself and heal from my own crazy past, which is why I’m grateful I spent the time watching a movie about someone’s music and life that I never used to appreciate at all. Ultimately, “Rocketman” totally changed my tune of Elton John and his music to one where I admire the man quite deeply now. For someone who faced his biggest hindrance, himself, and fought his way back from darkness to find his own inner light, Elton John is a beautiful soul and “Rocketman” was well worth my time seeing and one I highly recommend…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Arthur”, A PBS Kids Show Under Fire For Depicting A Gay Marriage

Say what?! Mr. Ratburn on the kids tv show “Arthur” is gay and getting married? Oh, the heresy! Well, that’s at least what Alabama Public Television (APT) thought, opting to not air the episode depicting the marriage and instead airing a re-run.

While a number of conservative value-based families from Alabama and beyond praised APT for their decision, many others expressed their disapproval. For example, school teacher Misty Souder from McCalla, Alabama saw the marriage as a celebration of inclusion and was looking forward to watching the episode with her 9-year-old daughter, only to be severely disappointed when she discovered a re-run was aired instead. In response, she reached out to the APT and used the experience to teach her daughter about the importance of speaking out for minority groups.

The statement provided by APT in regards to why they made their decision was that “Parents have trusted Alabama Public Television for more than 50 years to provide children’s programs that entertain, educate, and inspire. More importantly, although we strongly encourage parents to watch television with their children and talk about what they have learned afterwards, parents trust that their children can watch APT without their supervision. We also know that children who are younger than the “target” audience for Arthur also watch the program. Our feeling is that we basically have a trust with parents about our programming. This program doesn’t fit into that.”

Sadly, back in 2005, another episode of “Arthur” came under similar controversy when it depicted the children of two lesbians living in Vermont. Except back then, PBS, who airs “Arthur”, pulled the episode due to how much flack it received, mostly from fundamental Christian groups that said the show was no longer “clean”. Ultimately, the feeling seems to still be the same in regards to this recent gay marriage episode, at least in Alabama, with 48% of those living there agreeing with the decision.

48%! With almost 5 million people living in Alabama, that means that there are at least 2.5 million people there who are still strongly opposed to homosexuality and feel it goes against their spiritual and moral values. In light of that, I began to wonder how many also feel the same way in the rest of our country? Does half of our population still strongly oppose homosexuality and feel it goes against the will of God? Honestly, I’m beginning to feel like our country is going backwards and I often think that at some point, there’s going to be an attempt to abolish gay marriage in our country.

Frankly, all of this makes me quite sad and maybe a little angry too. It’s 2019 for Pete’s sake and our country remains strongly divided on something all because the Bible continues to be thrown at people and judgments placed that God considers homosexuals to be sinners. UGH!

Sometimes I really wish that Christ would just get it over with and return, if only to remind everyone that the two most important “laws” were to love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Somehow, far too many people continue to forget that and opt to protest things like a kid’s cartoon that’s showing a gay marriage because it goes against their spiritual beliefs and the God of their understanding.

My feelings about all this? Why can’t people just let people be people. Why can’t we just live and let live for Heaven’s sake! For as long as the Bible continues to be used as a means for judgment and not love, I honestly think our country is going to go in the exact opposite direction as to where the God of my understanding would love to see us headed in.

Sometimes I think we could actually be headed for a Tolitarian society that is Biblical-based and while many fundamentalists may totally cheer the idea of that, others like myself shudder at the notion of living in a country that could become no different than back in Christ’s time when there were so many severe factions and laws, something Christ fought hard to abolish. And if Christ is nothing but unconditional love, are all those judgments that continue to fly out towards homosexuals including decisions like not airing a gay marriage episode because it’s deemed “unclean”, really depicting Christ’s unconditional love at all?

That being said, I profoundly applaud PBS and “Arthur” for creating an episode that showed an act of unconditional love between two male characters, Mr. Ratburn and Patrick. Someday, hopefully I’ll live in a world where people simply love each other and don’t use a spiritual book as a weapon for separation and disunity, rather than one for inclusion and acceptance, as maybe then, people might actually see Mr. Ratburn’s and Patrick’s marriage as something to celebrate and not to denounce.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson