On Thanksgiving Day, I lived a lifelong dream of being in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, when I played the part of a Bumble Bee in the Springtime Clowns group, which marched ahead of the Wiggly Worm balloon. You can thank us for the lovely spring-like weather on November 26th in NYC. ;)
At 5am, when we arrived at the New Yorker Hotel, where we'd change into costume, I went downstairs to the restroom. There was a woman, about mid-50s, drying her eyes with a paper towel. She was crying, tears of joy. She mentioned it was her lifelong dream to be in the parade. And you may remember Grandma Boop's reaction to getting into the parade last year after 30 years of trying--it went viral. So I'm not the only one!
In my line of work, I'm exposed to the tremendous lack of basic opportunity and human rights in the world, namely education. It's often jarring for me to switch from my serious dreams--to be part of the generation that ends education inequality--to the seemingly silly ones, like being in a parade or finishing a marathon. I am incredibly fortunate to have a network that supports my dreams on both ends of the spectrum.
The truth is, the "silly" dreams motivate me. They teach me that persistence pays off. I can tackle them as I work up to the serious dreams, and in doing so, I pick up insights and skills that truly matter.
The Macy's Parade was more surreal than I ever imagined for a couple reasons. First, even though I've run in the closed-down streets of New York City during the marathon, then I was sharing the asphalt with thousands of runners. During the parade, you've got a HUGE amount of empty road to dance around, space you're only sharing with about six or seven people. And you're not dressed as you. In the marathon, people shouted my name, which was written on my shirt, whereas in the parade, they chanted "Bumble Bee! Bumble Bee!" and shouted, "Hi Bee!" I got to be a character, a piece of the magic that is the 89-year-old Macy's Thanksgiving Day tradition.
Clowns are the only part of the parade that get to run to the sidelines and literally touch the spectators. I gave hundreds of kids high-fives. I tossed thousands of pieces of confetti on their heads. I walked away thinking: As people, we just want to be seen, don't we? More than we may even realize it. To have others acknowledge our bee-ing. (I couldn't resist.)
I shouted "Happy Thanksgiving" to the crowds a zillion times, and when I looked someone in the eye and smiled, they smiled too. It was contagious. We looked up at the buildings, where people were watching from windows. We pointed at them and waved. They lit up. People don't do that on a regular day in New York City--look each other in the eye and smile. We are too busy avoiding eye contact. But on this one unseasonably warm morning, as Macy's put on its annual parade as safely as ever despite security threats around the world, I'd like to think most people understood how lucky we all were to just be.
Thank you again, Macy's and Madeleine Magardician, for letting me bee in your parade!