One benefit of growing up as an only child is that it allowed me to cultivate and grow, an appreciation for Star Wars. I suppose, it is also understandable that I related with Luke Skywalker who, being an orphan, was similar to being an only kid. It is in my opinion and partly due to phrases and things my father use to tell me before he died, that I came to be fiercely independent. But I also think only kids, especially those of us who were witness to our parents imploding relationships and eventual divorce, tend to gravitate towards being loners. My wife has 9 siblings and often comments, “I don’t play well with others” which, is quite true — I don’t. I’m not one to warm up to people immediately, often judge far too quickly and am suspicious and cynical. It might also be that’s how New Englanders are. There are aspects of me that no matter how hard I work towards changing, aren’t going to change. While I’ve always found a certain level of fondness in the way of the Jedi or the calm musings and teachings of Yoda, truth be told, if the Force did exist I would easily succumb to the dark side and it’s malevolence because of my impatience, short temper, and seething rage that boils out from nowhere. It’s hard living with contempt and anger, and I struggle to control it. With age, comes reflection and every now and then, I surprise myself — as has happened recently.
Through a mutual friend I was made aware of an event the Parks & Recreation Department was planning. They had been screening movies at the local library that were bringing out good crowds, but they wanted to spice it up some. Turns out, the administrator is a big Star Wars fan and we were introduced. They planned on showing The Force Awakens outdoors on an inflatable screen and involving costumed characters. I jumped at the chance to become involved and offered my assistance. I met with the administrator and her boss, the Director, not Krennic to discuss including Star Wars trivia, where I also offered up some sweet swag from my own collection and brought along some of my own ‘Force FX lightsabers’ for them to check out. It wasn’t long before I was suiting up and trying on Stormtrooper armor they had purchased while waving to the passing cars just by their offices. They clearly knew they had the right guys for the job. I set to procuring additional bodies to fill out the other outfits they had purchased.
As someone who has always loved Halloween and dabbles in cosplay, this was a chance for me to give back, to the community that I enjoy living in. It didn’t hurt that it involved Star Wars either. My kids, of course, were also excited and my son donned his Poe Dameron flight suit once again, and my daughter went headlong into a hastily prepared, but no less impressive Rey outfit. Sadly, though, a horribly timed thunderstorm exploded hours before the event, and it had to be rescheduled for the following week. My kids and I were especially bummed out that night. We all counted down the days to the event over the next week, and it was helpful for all involved since it allowed for extra preparations. My daughter and I whipped up two decent BB8 standees out of foam core, and I had a last minute idea on a better staff for her. Not to mention I had some dropouts and had to recruit others to participate cosplaying. But, more importantly, it also gave me and my daughter time to choreograph our interactive lightsaber showdown in costume as Rey and Kylo.
What really impacted me most, though, was how many smiling faces I saw that night. Everyone, young and old couldn’t wait to get a picture with the characters we had lined up. Young children came in costume and an enthusiastic crowd participated in playing trivia. I can understand better now the impact of Volunteerism. I know now that costuming groups like the 501st or the Alderaan Legion not only are passionate about their art and craft, but also in giving back in some way. I know deep in my heart that I’m not the best person all the time, that I hold grudges, and it’s just who I am. But I can at least attest, that for one night, I did some good for others.In the darkness of a warm summer night, the hooting, cheering and clapping that enveloped me and my daughter as we enacted our duel amongst the surprised crowd, made my icy heart feel damn warm. Plus, it allowed me to feel what it’s like to do something for others, instead of yourself. It reminded me of Han’s change of heart in A New Hope, which allowed for that lonely orphan Luke to save the day, who was but one individual, doing something really awesome for a whole galaxy.
The Cantina Cast
The wretched hive your Jedi Master warned you about!
*I’m a jack of many trades, but master of none; though I excel at drawing, writing and love photography. Aside from this blog I also review movies weekly in my column ‘Film Unfiltered’ for the Valley Breeze in Northern RI. You can find me on Facebook at teburke3, Twitter & Instagram: thomasburke3rd. MTFBWY, Tom