For this week’s Acting Business Bite, I’m pleased to introduce guest writer Ryan Blackwell. Ryan is an actor and writer, and he shares with us that good people are not just found within our circle of friends. It’s easy to list off the most irritating or frustrating people and situations, but if you’re paying attention, positive influences are all around you.
Gawker recently published an article about The Ten Worst People on the Subway. I like a Ten Worst List as much as the next guy, but being that I have recently returned from celebrating the 75th wedding anniversary of my great-grandparents, two of the most amazing, kind, generous, loving (and funny!) people I know, I thought I would create a different list: The Ten Best People I Know.
1. The people who put the work into friendships
I am fortunate enough to be friends with some pretty kickass people: artists and ambassadors and bandleaders and burlesque dancers and preachers and pyrotechnicians and this one dude who has an indented chest and will let you eat cereal out of it. But my truest friends – my counselors, confidantes, and confederates – are the ones who realize this simple truth: Friendships. Take. Work. They take time when you don’t have it to spare, honesty when no one else will give it, communication when you have nothing to gain from it.
This one goes to Mark, Colin and Amy, each of whom give priority to their relationships.
2. The people who help those less fortunate
In the race to get ahead, it’s easy to forget those who have been left behind. Many of us, myself included, help out in little ways where we can. We round up our purchases to the nearest dollar so the change can go to charity. Maybe we volunteer at a soup kitchen from time to time. Kind and notable acts, all. But there are some who make this their life’s work, who focus on helping those who have been dealt a raw hand. And their love and generosity spreads and makes the world a better place for all.
This one is for Chi, who, after getting her PhD in the US, returned to Nigeria to run an orphanage.
3. The people who see the positive
I once spoke to someone who had a great job, a great partner and a great weekend house in the country… but only saw the taxes they’d have to pay, wondered if the relationship would fail, and worried about the house falling apart during winter. Blew my mind. But I realized it’s not uncommon – seeing the negative. It is, however, unpleasant to be around – which is why I admire and am attracted to people who focus on the positive. “I’m not saying ignore the weeds,” someone recently told me, “I’m saying appreciate the garden.”
This one’s for Dallas.
4. The people who inspire me to greatness
Everyone on this list inspires me in some way or other. But here I specifically mean the people who strive, often against great odds, to better themselves. The people who see past the obstacles to the opportunity. The risk takers. The music makers, the dreamers of dreams. People who shrug off the idea of “this is how it’s done” and say “this is how I’m going to do it.” And for those who find success and send the ladder back down – an extra jewel in your crown.
This one’s for Kevin. He’s swell.
5. The people who forgive
Believe it or not, I’m imperfect. I know, I know. World shattered, right? But I have been known to make mistakes from time to time. And the people I’ve hurt would be well within their rights to hold my mistakes over my head for the rest of my days, to let me crumble under the weight of my own guilt. But they don’t. It’s not that they don’t care – they do. And they let it be known. But they know that the power of forgiveness is stronger than the power of a grudge.
This one’s for Shaylan. She is amazing. Be amazing like Shaylan.
6. The people who do the crap jobs
You clean the subways. You pick up the trash. You gather produce. You mop up in slaughterhouses. You get coffee. You pull coal from the earth. You guard the buildings at night. And whatever your reason for doing it – you are awesome and I thank you.
This one’s for Cyril.
7. The people who are willing to have their minds changed
Times change. People change (now I have Exposé stuck in my head). We evolve but all too often beliefs and opinions stay mired in the past. And there can be a lot of pressure to keep them there, which is why I so admire the people who are strong enough to unstick themselves. People who consciously choose their beliefs after examining several sides of an issue, even if it means saying they were wrong… well those are admirable folk. Rare and admirable.
This one is for Denee.
8. The people who make me laugh
I believe laughter is absolutely vital to a healthy spirit. I’m a connoisseur and a collector; I have a chuckle, a giggle, a chortle, a guffaw, a belly laugh, a wheezer, a snorter, and apparently a bark. I stopped caring about potential lines around my eyes and mouth because I see them as marks of a life enjoyed. And those who can really make me laugh are gods to me. Well, maybe not gods, but pretty cool nonetheless.
This one’s for Matt. Makes me laugh so hard it hurts. But it hurts so good.
9. The people who defend us
When I was a senior in high school, a Naval recruiting officer called my house to talk to me about serving our country. My life might have taken a different path except that my mother answered the phone. She laughed at him. “Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great young man, but he’s not the one you want fighting. You want someone to make them laugh? He’s your guy.” After engaging her in a round of fisticuffs to prove my mettle (and losing – shut up), I conceded. They are special people who not only put themselves in harm’s way for others, but endure separation from their families, years in unfamiliar territory, scrutiny and sometimes condemnation of the people they to protect, daily and unfathomable fear and stress, and crap food. My cousin is in the Coast Guard and his brother had a tour in Iraq. My uncle is a firefighter. One grandfather fought in Korea and the other served in WWII, as did my great-grandfather. Each of them is a hero to me. They’ve protected me and my friends. I hope I’ve made them laugh.
This one is for them.
10. My great-grandparents
Put numbers 1-9 together and you’ll have something approaching the superfantasticness that are Earl and Sylvia. At 89 years old, my great-grandmother is one of the sharpest, funniest, most loving and energetic people I know. And at 97, my great-grandfather has one of the greatest track records of being a good leader by example, loving unconditionally and generally just brightening your day. As I write this, he is in his final hours*. The doctors give him a few more days at best. My grandmother, his daughter, told me recently that she believes that when someone dies, it’s like putting a drop of dye into the ocean – it appears to go away, but it spreads and permeates and becomes a part of everything. I like that. Earl Paulk is a man of immense character, of boundless integrity. He is vast. And I believe that he shall not be greatly diluted.
*Update* – Just before posting this, I received word that my great-grandfather passed away. His was a full life, well lived, and we celebrate him. Here’s to you, Earl.
Ryan Blackwell is an actor and writer living in Brooklyn, NY. He most recently produced and starred in the short film ‘Once A Loser’ which won Best Ensemble Acting and Best Film (among others) in the 48 Hour Film Project. He has a fear of bees but it’s getting better, thank you.