Sunday, October 21, 2012



When we think of inspiration most think of political personalities that helped us build a foundation, but unfortunately most if not all of us have never had an up close and personal relationship with any of these people.

On a personal basis, I often think of whom I owe a deep share of gratitude to for helping mold my life and find the person I am so comfortable with. If we aren’t satisfied with our person, it becomes very difficult for us to teach and offer assistance to others. Being at ease with one’s skin takes time and patience, and usually we have someone who took the time to offer us encouragement.

I’m not talking about a pat on the back. I’m speaking of finding out that you are different and then learning how to be comfortable and successful with that person. It’s hard to understand there is no one else like you. There is only one you.

I remember back in junior high school. I had this teacher named Ton. Mr. Ton loved teaching. He came in early and left late. He gave his time freely and answered questions with explanations we all understood. He made learning unique and special. He knew how to tease the mind into having the need to know answers and then be satisfied with discovery. In one of the classrooms, the blackboards circled the room in a horseshoe. When most teachers just ambled on endlessly with the written word, Mr. Ton drew pictures and taught with excitement. He electrified the class, even the boys who didn’t want to participate, got involved. He drew us in. We listened. We learned and found a love to read and expand the mind. He was a great teacher.

Like many children growing up in a dysfunctional family, my mother was too busy in her mind to make room for children in need of nourishing. My father, again like many, was never around. He worked mostly to stay away from the house. I was lucky. I had a grandfather who cared. When my mom called me, a black sheep, meant to hurt me, my grandfather took me for a walk and explained how unique a black sheep was. A black sheep could be a leader. He stood out and was proud, and best of all the other sheep looked up to him. Instead of crawling into a shell and all but forgotten I learned to stand tall, accept whatever came before me and dealt with it. My grandpa was by far, the most important person in my life. He was my personal inspiration. Through him and his memory I have been blessed to share his teachings, patience and joy for life.

As we get older and drift into the workforce, few have time to help you find what’s inside. If you don’t know yourself by the time you get into your twenties, chances are you might never know the potential that lies just beneath the surface of the skin. Sadly, it requires inspiration from somewhere or someone to lift your spirits to a new high. But who might that be; you ask? It’s a problem for everyone and only a handful; actually find those unique personalities who will take the time to offer a hand. It might come from a wife, a child, co-worker, boss or friend. The problem we face is our lack of understanding the art of listening. We may have someone who can do all things needed if we could learn to hear them, but most won’t or don’t know how.

I married young and my wife became my personal inspiration. She didn’t baby me or continually pat me on the back. What she did do was insist I do what was in my heart and then she stood by me every step of the way. We shared everything, smiles, arguments, conversation and most of all we listened to each other. In the early stages of my career I met a few very special men, and each one had a unique form of inspiration. Tony Curtis, Rock Hudson, Ernie Borgnine, Ronald Reagan, Dick Clark and a few others gave me both direction and foundation. These unique men took the time to help me to understand I could make a difference; all I had to do was take the time to do it.

As an actor, I learned to listen to the director and then was able to discover what it was he or she wanted and expected my character to achieve in order to become fully dimensional. It’s not easy, but once you get the handle it drips out smoothly. Directors, however, work on a budget and in almost all examples money rules their activity and how much time and patience they are willing to give an intimidated or insecure personality. It might be easier to recast the roll then it is to help fix a person’s insecurities.

As a director, I found a love for working with children and animals. Animals are fun, loose and are willing to try anything to please and offer unconditional love. If well trained they will work a trick and repeat it as many times as requested. Actors, on the other hand, usually have a multitude of personality perks. Some are temperamental; some pout or become with drawn, while others are insecure every moment they stand before the camera. Kids haven’t found their insecurities yet, at least most haven’t, and so working with them is fun. They listen, want to please and like animal actors, are willing to try anything within reason. All the kids I have worked have brought much joy to my heart. Some of their parents, however, are not fun to be around at all. One child I worked with had a mother who cared more for her accommodations and how much money the child made then she did the child. When wrapping a film, nothing feels better than to have a child wrap their arms around your neck and thank you and whisper they love you for being so nice to them.

Like every writer who puts words on paper, albeit for the screen or a novel, we adore hearing a good review of our work. We all hear derogatory stuff because there are many critics in all walks of life. A writer’s worst nightmare is a critic in print who has had a bad day. They see nothing good to the written word and tear it to pieces. Then a strange thing happens. The public reads this terrible work or an audience pays to see the movie you wrote, and they love it. The movie or novel makes money and sells well, and then the critic may come back and take praise for creating a unique situation that ultimately made the film or book a success.  When I teach a class or appear for a lecture, I tell my audience to expect to read or hear pessimism about a work and accept it. Not everyone will like or inspire you. Fact is, few will want to do that because they are jealous of you and could never match what you have accomplished. Everyone strives to do their best, and I am the first one to say one or a handful of negative reviews does not make or break a work or the artist who created it.

One of my favorite stories happened in Santa Barbara California. I had just sold a screenplay, shared a great lunch and was on my way home. I stopped for gas, a station that happened to be right next to McDonald’s restaurant. The handle on the gas hose was wet and after pumping the gas, I went to the restroom to wash my hands. On the way back to the car this homeless man asked if I could help him. He said he had just been given a bed at a local shelter, but couldn’t check in until after seven. He sadly mentioned he was hungry and didn’t have money for food. I had been ripped off in the past and was reluctant to give money to a man who looked like he would drink it away even when famished, so I suggested I buy him dinner. He smiled and took out his wallet. He opened it, and it was empty. His eyes found mine and I saw a spark, some pride that had been beaten down comes to life. He asked if I would give him the money and then accompany him inside McDonald's. He explained he wanted to pay for the meal himself so it wouldn’t look like a handout. I put five dollars in his wallet, and we entered McDonald's together. He proudly ordered his meal and when the girl hesitated to fill it, he took out his wallet and showed her he had the money. I asked him if he was trying to stay sober, and he said it was either that or death, and he wanted to live. When we parted I gave him twenty dollars, it would have been more but that was all I had at the time. His tears made that experience stay with me for a lot of years. I can still see his face and the twinkle in his eye. Without knowing or trying, he gave me a personal inspiration that can never be taken away. One short moment of generosity changed both of our lives. The kindness of the money made his life seem worthwhile living, and he showed me there was hope for all of us if we took the time to listen and help when and if we can.

Ask yourself, who gives you Personal Inspiration? Who in your life changed how you look at things, how you respond to those in need and then ask if you have ever taken the time to help someone who is not asking for help. Life is short. The older we get the faster our life vehicle seems to travel. Along the way, we are often given the opportunity to cause a change, to do something so rewarding we will never forget it. It has nothing to do with money, but everything to do with the foundation on which you built your life structure. Time is precious. Stop and take the time to do what is really important. Be inspired and give that gift to others. Many of them will return the favor by helping someone else. Love life and share your smiles often.

William Byron Hillman © 2012
Book Links:
Veronique and Murray:
Zebra’s Rock and Me

Rollie Kemp Books
Ghosts and Phantoms Part I:
Ghosts and Phantoms Part II:
Bad Rap (November 2012)

Coming soon:
Quigley’s Christmas Adventure (November 2012)