in the last 48 hours i painted 29 butterfly masks, 13 unicorns, 21 tigers, seven spider webs, two football team logos (one college, one NFL, zero Broncos, WHAT?), 11 hearts, three snakes, ten turtles, six dragons, one bald eagle, one love bird (yeah, i didn’t know either), and one less than satisfactory Iron Man mask onto the cheeks/arms/hair of at least 97 1/2 children. i painted one personal interpretation of William Wallace’s battle face onto one cheek of one adult male. unfortunately, he was married. trust me, i checked.
i have accidental paint in my hair, on my arms, hands and legs. i have accidental sun burns on the right side of my body and the one side of neck. my back hurts from bending over, from holding chins up, from saying “look this way,” “hold still,” “yes, i know it tickles,” and “no, please don’t touch it, scrunch it, or try to lick it.”
i spent the weekend at an art festival hosting a booth trying to raise money for my Summit for Someone volunteering and climb. i brought pamphlets and pictures and prepared stories about “doing good” and “going pantless” to share with heavy walleted passerbys. i was ready to spread awareness and recruit others to the cause, or at least chat people up about why my knees are so knobby.
i handed out four pamphlets. i spoke honestly with three people. i had one stranger tell me he was proud of me.
mostly, i painted faces.
adults (grown-ups, if you will) would rather stand in line for 20 minutes (yes, i was very popular or slow or both) to have their child receive a completely amateur interpretation of a “sorta creepy” skeleton painted onto their face than talk straight with me for five minutes about my non-profit. people are more willing to donate $1 for a store bought chocolate chip cookie than to give $1 to a non-profit for the sake of the non-profit (but joke’s on them because those cookies were a day old).
don’t get me wrong. i’m not complaining. i’m thankful for each and every person who walked by my tent and took the time to make eye contact with me. i’m thankful for the women who laughed audibly while reading “go pantless. that’s funny” and i’m thankful for the women who silently read “go pantless” with a clear look of distaste (it’s very unladylike, you know). i’m thankful for every dollar and penny (but seriously? pennies, guys?) placed into my donation jar. but mostly, i’m thankful for the kids.
let’s be real, i’m thankful for the kids in part for their parents with the donation money. but i’m also thankful for the kids because even though they had absolutely no idea why i was there, what message i was trying to share, or even where mt. kilimanjaro is (although, many of you grown-ups still think it’s in japan… it’s not) they were living the first part of my slogan: dream big.
“i want a blue snake. with spikes. and wings. and a blue tongue. his name will be frank.”
“can you do like, ocean waves? with a dolphin peeking out? and also a sunset behind it.”
or even, “i want a butterfly mask that covers my whole face and eyes and my mouth, too.”
each child from age two to thirteen was excited simply at the notion of having something slightly unique painted onto their face.
when i was finished with frank or peeking dolphin or butterfly eyes and held up the mirror to show that i am clearly not a professional nor have my drawing skills progressed since the fifth grade, each child still gasped and smiled and admired their reflection (except for Iron Man. seriously, i can not stress it enough: don’t f up Iron Man).
in that moment, nothing else in the world mattered to them. when was the last time you felt that?
sure, kids feel that same way with ice cream cones or new hot wheels trucks or getting first place at the three-legged race on field day, but i was able to actually witness it every three to five minutes over and over again. it gave me hope.
it didn’t give me hope in the way that one would feel after a stevie wonder concert (peace and love for everyone). it was not a universal hope in humanity (let’s be real, we’re fucked). instead, it gave me hope in the individual, in individuality, in creativity and in the pursuit of simplistic, self-dictated appreciation.
for grown-ups, getting your face painted is messy. it’s tacky. it’s not sexy or appealing or profound or professional or serious or important.
for kids, getting your face painted is self expression. it’s adventure. it’s a confident boasting of personal happiness. in that moment, it’s everything.
but no matter the joy and smiles that a face paint gives, at the end of the day, you know what those grown-ups do? they make their kids take baths and they wash the paint off their faces. why? because it’s messy.
i genuinely believe that happiness is found when we all stop taking ourselves so seriously. imagine what it would be like if kids were allowed to sleep in their face paint for just one glorious night. what’s the worst thing that would happen? we would have dirty pillowcases.
what if we could focus less on preventing imperfections and focus more on creating imperfections? what kind of creativity and invention and innovation and self appreciation could we bring?
for a while now, i’ve been looking for my own kind of face paint. i’m learning it’s an evolving process with many colors and brush sizes.
so i’m dreaming big. i want a girl. on a mountain. and no pants. with a sunset behind it, too. her name will be knobby knees. sure it’s messy. but for me, it’s important.
let’s promote imperfections. explore imagination. say yes to possibility. here’s to more dirty pillowcases.