Do-Over: The Final Blog Post … for *This* Location

Okay. So I think I think I have things all sorted out. Sorry about that bit of technical difficulty last week. This will be the final post from this blog. This blog along with your subscription to it will be inactive after this post. I’ve begun moving this content over to the new and shiny!

If you’d like to continue receiving my posts or you’d like to start having my blog posts delivered to your email account before they show up at other places around the internet—and I hope you want that, too—come on over to, and sign-up there.

Everything’s working fine now. I promise.


I’m Moving!

photo-1447752875215-b2761acb3c5dAfter all this time at the same address, I think it’s time to try something new, so I’m trying a new location! Well … truth be told, it’s not so much me that’s moving as much as it is my blog.

WordPress has hosted by blog for years. For those of you who’ve inspired me and been with me on this journey, you’ve seen my blog and writing go through a number of changes (hopefully, for the best). But I’m ready to step up my writing and my online presence, and house everything at my new home

What this means to you is that subscriptions for this blog will be going away. But don’t worry, if you’d like to continue receiving my posts or you’d like to start having my posts delivered to your email account before they show up on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium, come on over to, and sign-up there.

Thanks and I hope to see you there. And bring a friend!

Guatemala’s Forgotten Children and My Unexpected Heart Transplant at 5,000 Feet Above Sea Level

There will be times in your life when you feel like you’re in inescapable circumstances that are of no benefit to you at all. Sometimes, the reason you’re there is so that you may be of service to someone who has a greater need than you. Other times, there’s a gift hidden inside the situation with your name on it. And still other times, something extraordinary happens to all parties involved.

The most challenging thing about being Donald Duck was that it was the only costume people my height were approved to do. Knowing there was no variety costumes worn and that everyday neverending throngs of adoring fans awaited their favorite Duck made it hard for me to go in and face the day. On many a day.

My coworkers could come in perform as Good in the morning, switch to the lesser known Sheriff of Nottingham later in the day, hop into one of the Country Bears for the parade, and end the day terrorizing Guests as Captain Hook. They could potentially have a whole day in costumed obscurity.

“Not I,” said the Duck.

But being a Duck had one advantage over all the other Characters and that was in the area of trips. All Characters of permanent status were rotated through trips that fell within their height range and the demand for those Characters. And since there were only four people who played Donald Duck at the time and the demand for Donald Duck was high, our rotation was a lotquicker than that of the Goofys. And we were unapologetic for that fact.

“Oh, you’re doing Mr. Smee today? Enjoy that. I’m going to Chicago, Amsterdam, and Atlanta this year. You won’t get to bid on a trip till next year, you say? Hm, sucks to be you!”

The first trip offered to me was to Guatemala City for seven days, with three appearances. It was my first trip out of the country. My dislike of the job waned immediately.

Every Walt Disney World trip that involved Characters, included visits to hospitals. On our trip we visited the largest orphanage-hospital in Guatemala. Our van coasted alongside a large courtyard, bordered by a simple eighteen inch high, pale yellow wall. At least two hundred children sat motionless along the wall.

As we made our way into the orphanage via a side entrance, I was dumbstruck by the conditions. I knew that the lifestyle we, as Americans, experience was not typical to the rest of the globe, but to see the abject poverty firsthand was a reality check. I had been in veterinary offices that were in better condition. That’s not to say that the staff didn’t take pride in their surroundings. On the contrary, they did the best with what was available to them.

My friends and I transformed from American tourists to Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy in a small office and were greeted with Spanish oohs and ahs.

Our hosts led us out to the courtyard, where each of us went in different directions so we could all work the courtyard at the same time. At that point, I had been performing as Donald Duck long enough to become well-acquainted with the costume, and had long since lost my initial Frankenstein walk. I strode around the courtyard like the cock of the walk. Yes, my portrayal of Donald Duck had swagger.

One of the nurses accompanied me and I barely heard her say to Donald “these are the deaf children” as we approached them. Since I wasn’t allowed to speak in costume, that bit of information didn’t affect my interaction with the kids a great deal. The closer I got to the children, the more I could see that the children’s clothes were a little worn from wear, but they were nonetheless clean.

Like kids in the Magic Kingdom, a few of them were moved give a hug, but it was a different kind of hug. Each one of them held on for dear life. Judging from some of their reactions, meeting Donald Duck was the best thing to happen to them in a long time. I continued my way down the line. A few of the children were withdrawn, and with those kids I took more time and managed to coax a smile out of them. Meeting all the kids along that wall of the courtyard took about thirty minutes. I was in no hurry and made sure to greet each and every one of them.

Again the nurse bent over and whispered into where Donald’s ear would be, “These are the crippled children.” I appreciated her care in forewarning me, but I could see the children in wheelchairs lined up against the wall. I gave a big wave to all the kids waiting along the wall as if to say “I know you’ve been waiting. I’m on my way to see you!” I had to be careful not to step on toes or accidentally kick a child. Child after child was elated.

After I completed the receiving line, the nurse led me to the third and final wall of the courtyard. Again, she bent over and spoke to Donald, “These are the blind children.” That bit of information threw me for a loop. An integral part of a Character experience was visual.

I moved towards the children. I heard the nurse introduce me in Spanish to the first child and she slipped my hand, enveloped in the padded Donald Duck glove, into the first child’s hand. A smile crept over the little girl’s face. The nurse guided the little girl’s hand as she touched my silky smooth spandex sailor jacket. Her hands made their way to the four gigantic plastic buttons and the bow tie on the front of the sailor jacket. The little girl giggled. And as her hands moved to Donald’s face, she touched the bill and squealed in delight. I watched as she put all the pieces of the puzzle together that her fingertips revealed to her and her picture was complete. She laughed a hearty laugh and hugged me as if I were a long-lost grade school friend.

I hugged her back with every fiber of my being screaming, “Oh, how I love you! And wish I could take you away from all this!” The nurse uttered a few words to my newfound friend in Spanish. I guessed that she explained that Donald had to meet the other children. The little girl and I squeezed each other tight as if to say good-bye.

This vignette was repeated again and again. Other kids got to feel Donald’s very round but furry body, and were delighted to find the fluffy tail at the rear.

Alan, our supervisor, came over to me and pulled me aside. “Are you okay?” he asked. He wanted to know if I needed to take a break, but I had to answer in Character-speak. I nodded my head vigorously and rubbed my palms together to convey that I was ready for more.

“Are you sure? You’ve been out here for an hour. And we’re five thousand feet above sea level,” he said. I appreciated his concern, but it would have been more of an inconvenience for all concerned if we retreated to that office only to catch a breath of fresh air for a couple of minutes. Besides, I was in no condition to say anything to anyone. Tears were streaming down my cheeks. My mind was busy sorting through how unfair the world was to have this many kids discarded like trash to live in these conditions. Children. I turned my emotions off and focused on the task at hand.

I dismissed both Alan and his comment by shooing him away in an exaggerated manner. I placed my right hand at the top of Donald’s right eye and slowly looked from one end of the courtyard to the other, and motioned for my supervisor to bring on more kids.

“Okay, okay. I was just asking. The other two are all right, too,” Alan added as he headed toward the main building.

I was keenly aware that all the kids who could see had their eyes on me at that moment. Always the showman, I rushed behind Alan and pushed him forward into Mickey and Goofy. The sighted kids laughed out loud.

The nurses led us through the hospital and told us that the children we would be seeing next were in serious condition. My heart sank. Over the next sixty minutes, we met bedridden children, children with birth defects, children with severe heart conditions, children who were burn victims, and children who were waiting for donor organs. We encountered children whose rooms we couldn’t enter. The list went on and on. And so did we.

During that hour, almost a mile above sea level, I kept my energy up for those kids. Their suffering was unfair. It was unfair that these kids, who didn’t have much to begin with, were stricken with life-threatening illnesses. It was unfair that those illnesses denied them the simple joys of childhood. It was unfair that their country didn’t have the medical resources that were available in the United States.

I didn’t know it at the time, but their world of inequities resonated within me. The unfairness of having a father who was emotionally unavailable to me and routinely receiving unwarranted stares from strangers were things I rarely thought about. The similarities in the orphans’ inability to effect a change in their living conditions mirrored my own helplessness in getting my father and certain members of the general public to accept me. The analogy was too great for me to recognize at the time, all I knew was that I was a cauldron of emotions.

For our efforts, the children showed their gratitude in a way more meaningful than I ever knew possible — a smile. When our visit with the children ended, we changed into our street clothes, and the nurse informed us that that day was the first time many of the children had smiled in months.

It wasn’t apparent to me then, but that morning at the Guatemalan orphanage awakened something inside me: a capacity to care about children with a sense of empathy. I learned that I had a responsibility to deliver a performance of Donald Duck that was as true to any animated short or feature ever produced by The Walt Disney Studios. That morning I learned what a unique position I had been given and the power that was at my disposal.

The above is an excerpt from Walking Tall: A Memoir About the Upside of Small and Other Stuff, available in print, and for Kindle, Nook, and iPad.

Inclusion > Diversity

Crayon art portrait by Christian Faur

Crayon art portrait by Christian Faur

Before we can even begin to think about inclusion we have to talk about bias and exclusion.


Biases exist. And we all have biases, good and bad. The people and things we like, we draw to us. The people and things we don’t, we push away. We all do it. I prefer to sit near a wall as opposed to sitting in the middle of a restaurant, Pinot Grigio over chardonnay, and sitting anywhere on a JetBlue flight than sitting in coach on United airlines flights. (Way too little legroom on United. Rest assured, legroom most certainly matters even to the vertically challenged. Who doesn’t like comfort?)

And we all have biases that live in our blindspot. More often than not, we don’t realize those biases even exist until we’ve stepped ankle-deep in a steaming pile of our own biases.


When it comes to things like Chinese food versus Italian, Yankees versus Mets, or a vacation mountains versus the beach, nobody has a problem thinking about or owning their biases. But when we talk about biases in relation to people, everybody gets all freaked out. As well we should.

You know why?

Because thinking about people in terms of bias means we have to ask ourselves inescapable questions: “Have my own personal biases about people who look or act differently from me led me to judge them unfairly?” “Do I have a bias for a more uniform environment?” Of course, you have. If you’ve drawn people near you, you’ve certainly pushed people away. Again, we all have and we all do.

As a black man who stands at a towering forty-eight inches, I’ve experienced more bias than the garden variety average-height person of any race can imagine. (So much so that I’ve given the phenomenon a name: The Novelty Effect.) And it boggles my mind how some white people can snuggle up to exclusion so easily. Especially, given the way the ethnic make-up of the United States has and is drastically changing



Exclusion is a pretty simple concept to grasp. The Dictionary program on my Mac defines exclusion as the process or state of exclusion. Great, they used a version of the word to define the word. So what does exclude mean?

To deny someone access to or bar (someone) from a place, group, or privilege; keep something out of place; to remove from consideration, rule out; to prevent the occurrence of

Sound familiar? Sounds a lot like prejudice to me.

Given that we humans are terribly inventive creatures, nobody’s really surprised that we’ve developed biases for just about everything. Ability, age, class, country of origin, ethnicity, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation size, weight …

You think it’s tough to face questions about bias and exclusion? You should try being on the receiving end of exclusion. I have a story for you …

Back in October 2012, I read about the 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center and how the newly installed fountains descended into each footprint of the original towers and how a stunning bronze parapet inscribed with the names of the victims surrounded each. It read like it’d be a transcendent experience. I had to see it! I told my friends about it and made reservations for us.

A couple of days later, we got there and were amazed by the solitude throughout the memorial. It reminded me of an oasis smack dab in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Lower Manhattan. The new One World tower was close to completion and we strolled over to the south pool. I was ready for my transcendent moment, the height of my visit: seeing the huge imprints and the waterfall/fountains inside them.

Unfortunately, my transcendent moment was obscured by the height of the wall. It came about two inches higher than my eye level.

My friends and I — all Little People — walked the circumference of the south fountain thinking “surely there’s some cut-out where we can see through or there’s some raised area specifically for those with limited mobility.”

Nope. Not *that* day. I guess the designers of the Plaza forgot that wheelchair and motorized chairs users, kids, or the vertically challenged might visit the plaza and expect to have the same experience as everyone else. I seriously hope that none of the survivors family members were wheel chair users.

Everyone is offered the same experience, right? Only if you’re taller than a third grader.

I know the decision to make the parapet x-height wasn’t made capriciously, nor was it intended as a personal affront. Decisions like that never are personal, unless you’re the person negatively impacted by such. It probably never crossed their mind.

While the above illustration points to the exclusion of a small portion of the population, the same scenario plays out a thousand times everyday — intentionally and unintentionally — with race as the bias. Don’t believe me? Check out this The New York Times article.

Diversity is not the issue. There’s 7.5 billion people on the planet and no two are exactly alike. Diversity is in our DNA. God has mastered diversity.

The issue is inclusion. And engaging in inclusive behavior is our human response to divine diversity. Since we’ve all been made by the same Creator, it stands to reason that we all have the same intrinsic value. Yes?


Think about your friends, coworkers, even the people with whom you choose to interact in passing. If they all look like you, think like you, and act like you; you’re not doing diversity. You’re doing uniformity.

Inclusion is a choice. A conscious choice. I choose to enter act with anyone open to interacting with me. Trust me, I’m not glad handing everyone in line at the post office; but I don’t walk around in a cloud of self-importance oblivious to the humanity all around me.

How do you become more inclusive? It ain’t that hard, people. You simply CHOOSE to open your sphere of influence — the people you interact with — to include different perspectives. Seek to afford others the same amount of grace and respect you would want if you were the only white person in a room of [insert your favorite minority].

It ain’t rocket science. Get the picture?

The above is an expanded excerpt from my presentation, “Challenges, Diversity, and Inclusion” at the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) Summit at the Disneyland Hotel.

America in Retrograde

please stand by 3

A growing number of Americans are horrified by the recent spate of violent events related to race over the last few years. To me it’s like a watching a bad reality show entitled, “America in Retrograde.” If only the state of our union was just a TV show, I imagine lots of viewers would be scrambling for their remotes.

Anger, frustration, heartbreak, outrage, and sadness are all appropriate emotions brought on by the rancor, violence, and abject hatred we’ve seen masquerading as political discourse and patriotism.

The real question is: what do you as an individual and we as a nation do with those emotions? In essence, there are only two options—

The first is to keep quiet, stay passive, and accept the status quo. Sir Isaac Newton got it right with his First Law of Motion when he said, “a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts upon it . . . ”

The second option is to channel those emotions in making America a more perfect union for everyone.

And how do we do that?

We try to affect change with care and respect right where we are, each of us in our own way. Folks like Charles M. Blow, Donna Brazile, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Shonda Rhimes, and George Takei — to name a very few — have national platforms from which they can spread their messages of equality and inclusion.

Each and every one of us has a platform at our immediate disposal that is just as—if not more—vital those of celebrities: our own sphere of influence,those we know and come in contact with on a regular basis. Think about it. People who have made a major paradigm shifts have done so thanks to a direct relationship with someone they know. You have a greater chance of helping some move from a bigoted to a more open-minded worldview when there’s some sort of relationship (professional, affinity group, social activity, et al) or common interest.

The country’s come too far to return things to the way they were. Too many people have given their lives in the fight against racism. And too many more have had their lives taken in that same name.

Be the change you want to see, starting right where you art; but do it with care and respect.

And above all, love one another.

If you enjoyed this post, check out my new book, 3 Things I Know: Facing and Embracing Life’s Challenges. I respond to all tweets.

Thanks for stopping by.

The wonder and terror of writing a popular post. And a promise.

"The Scream of Nature" by Edvard Much, 1893.

“The Scream of Nature” by Edvard Much, 1893.

Something wonderful and terrifying is happening for me right now over at A post I wrote last summer in which I poured my heart out to friends (How I Talk To White People About Racism) has been experiencing a resurgence over the last couple of days and is connecting with readers. A lot of readers. Hundreds of readers. In a crazy way.

Something I wrote is popular!

For the moment.


It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that something I’ve thought about long and hard about (after intentionally avoiding the subject) is resonating with people. I can’t tell you why they’re sharing it with friends, my guess is that it* connects with some part of them. And that’s all I, as a writer, want: to connect with people and affect their lives in a meaningful way.

I’m making it a point to respond to everyone who leaves a comment. Why? (See “it” footnote below.) Well, they’re taking a moment to tell me what’s on their mind and that’s what this writer thrives on, feedback. So why not?

But there’s a potential danger here. The numbers.

Medium is very good about letting writers know how well their stories are performing in terms of readership, views, recommends (the equivalent of Facebook “Likes”). And it can be addictive. Then the goal can become how am I going to “out-do” that last post. It can become a vicious cycle. Write more to get more. Can you say “slippery slope”?

I know this because I’ve succumbed the pressure to crank out “stuff” to match the quantity and popularity of other writers in the past. And that didn’t work out so well for me. I didn’t receive the public ridicule that others have for writing to the masses. The result was that my stuff just wasn’t nearly as popular. Maybe it was the topic. Maybe it was the format. Maybe it was me.

So the deal is this: if you’re one of those people who’ve recently followed me on Medium or if you’re a longtime reader of my stuff, thank you! Again, it’s wonderful knowing that you’ve enjoyed that post (and/or earlier posts); just know that I’ve learned my lesson. I don’t and won’t write posts that often. I’m not nearly as prolific as others. I don’t want to be. I want to and will strive to write quality transparent posts are deeply important to me. Hopefully, they’ll connect with you, as well. And if not, I don’t mind if you don’t mind.

There you have it. You’re more than welcome to snoop around the archives (more fondly known as The Vault) for posts and books I’ve previously written. Or you can just wait it out to see what’s next.

(Oh, yeah. I’m a rotten proofreader of my own work.)

*it = the theme of that particular piece is rooted in one of the oldest universal truths known to Man: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.