The Lists

August’s Sparklers: Those Who Choose to Shine

Here at Dandelion Chandelier we like to celebrate the people, groups and institutions who have spread light in the world, even in the midst of great darkness. Every day around the world, people choose to shine in ways large and small. These moments of grace and generosity don’t always get reported on, and unfortunately they can be quickly forgotten. We need to hear and repeat these stories: sometimes good news and kindness is the sweetest luxury of all.

To inspire us all to keep reaching out, here are some Sparklers that caught our attention in recent weeks:

After 14 years, there has been a reconciliation between baseball’s Chicago Cubs and Steve Bartman. Mr. Bartman was among the most vilified fans of all time, having reached for a foul ball during a playoff game at Wrigley Field in 2003, possibly causing the Cubs to lose that game and their hopes of a playoff victory. “The Curse” – the 108-year drought before the team won another World Series – was not lifted until the fall of 2016. In the meantime, Mr. Bartman was the subject of derision and threats for years. Last week, the Cubs bestowed on him a glittering 2016 World Series ring. Kudos to both parties for their open-heartedness. Way to play ball.

In 1993, jazz legend Wynton Marsalis performed with a group of musicians at Manhattan’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Michael Solomon had helped arrange the visit for 60 patients who gathered around a makeshift stage. Six years later, he launched Musicians on Call, a not-for-profit that sends volunteer musicians to play in hospitals, veterans’ facilities and nursing homes. The program operates in 28 cities. Pharrell Williams, Kelly Clarkson, Keith Urban and Nick Jonas have all taken part. The organization’s president notes “you might see a family that’s really struggling, but when a musician comes in to play a song, you can see the entire room transform right in front of you.” That’s some sweet, sweet music. Play on.

A video that went viral recently shows a fifth-grade teacher in North Carolina shaking hands with each of his students before they enter class. Barry White, Jr. has a unique handshake 17 kids, inspired by LeBron James’ pre-game ritual with his teammates. Students report that the handshakes make them feel welcome at school – and studies show that feeling invisible or unknown by their teachers is a major impediment to their learning and development. Bravo, Mr. White! We can all shake on that one.

Ballet’s image can be intimidating and exclusionary for some. Enter Homer Hans Bryant, founder of Hiplet™ — it’s a dance technique that fuses classical pointe with Hip-Hop and urban dance styles. It was specifically designed to make ballet accessible to all, by mixing it with current popular songs that will be familiar to audiences who don’t normally attend ballet performances. The Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center is empowering lives through dance, and offering scholarships so that every child can learn if they choose. Get on your feet, people. There are sparklers in the house.

This morning’s Wall Street Journal proves that sparklers exist everywhere, even in Gotham. Jeffrey Zachary, a bus driver from Canton, Ohio, came to the New York area to help out during this summer’s transit issues. He said that before leaving home, his friend told him “don’t talk to strangers.” But Mr. Zachary is a self-reported chatterbox, so on his first day at work driving a bus from suburban New Jersey to Manhattan, he told a couple of passengers that their coffee smelled good. The next day, that same pair arrived on board with an extra coffee and a toasted buttered bagel for their new driver.  Mr. Zachary’s take on New York? “Everybody seems really nice.”

While the world waits for the Great American Eclipse on August 21, a star is already providing celestial inspiration. Airbnb, National Geographic and Dr. Jedidah Isler, a National Geographic explorer and renowned astrophysicist, have joined forces to create the Night at Solar Eclipse. One couple will spend the night of August 20th in a geodesic dome designed for stargazing in the Terrebonne, Oregon, wilderness. The next day, they’ll board a private jet and follow the eclipse across the country with Dr. Isler. She studies the intersections of science and social justice and for her, the total solar eclipse is a teachable moment about togetherness. This adventure cannot be purchased – it can only be earned via an essay contest: all interested travelers must respond to this statement: “Tell us why you think this (eclipse) is bringing people together, and why you want to be a part of it.” Shine on.

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