I went up to the mountains this past weekend with a bunch of men from my church. The beauty that I once knew from going up to this camp many times as a youth volunteer was surrounded by cindered trees and burned out landscape. There was a fire up there this past winter, which had threatened the camp; but the fire ceased and died out just before entering the official campsite.
Upon that mountain meadow, I met a man. He had a crooked walk, with a distorted posture. His cheek bones stuck out of his face like oak roots sticking out of the ground. When I shook his hand; it was like touching soft leather. He could hardly squeeze my hand, and it was easy to see why. His figure was like watching an object move farther away in the distance, thinning and fading away. Yet there was strength within him.
When I spoke to him, he told me his name was Mike. He was humble and content like the stories of the old man on the mountain, or the Jedi master who lives on a world that’s nothing but a swampland. He slept outside in the cold, while all of us slept inside cabins. I asked him why, he simply said “I’m more comfortable that way.”
Then he spoke about his passion for music. I had heard him play the piano the first night I was there. If you had closed your eyes, you would have difficulty depicting between Mike and Ray Charles. Yet here was a man of the streets, brought to a mountain getaway because someone asked him if he wanted to go. And it was here, I was inspired by a man who knew what he loved about life. He said to me…
“When I play piano, I am just reflecting what God has given me. My music is just an expression of a conversation I’m having with God.”
Now, if you want to call it divine intervention, God planned, or just plain luck; the fact of the matter is; I was inspired by Mike’s story and his passion. Stories move us, and many times they give us inspiration to live out our own lives. Being a designer is everything to Mike. He goes to a homeless shelter, back in my hometown, where he lives a simple life playing the piano there. Few will ever witness his passion, few will ever be inspired by him. This isn’t because of where Mike is; it actually has more to do with where we are.
Designers who are looking for inspiration need not to just go to art galleries or stare at pictures online. Talk to people, get to know their story. I realize that social media can become a huge part of your life, but it really isn’t your life. Life is lived out on the streets, and there are many who live there. If you’re a designer searching for inspiration, then I highly recommend you go speak to some of them. Get to know their story, and the ideas for your designs will begin to flourish.After speaking with Mike, I know that even I should get back out there. I need to walk downtown more and look for “interesting” people. Don’t feel like you owe them something just by talking to them. We often think that if we engage a homeless person in a conversation, we suddenly owe them money. When in reality, you are giving them something. You’re giving them your time, which is actually more valuable than money in my opinion. Many of them just want their story to be known. They want someone to remember them, just like you want people to remember you.
You might be someone who look at a homeless person and turn your nose up at them. You look at them as peddlers and dirty nobodies that don’t deserve your time. You complain about them whenever you see them, maybe to a friend or in your mind. The question I put to you is, why? If you’re not doing anything about the problem then why are you complaining. “Because Ricky, it’s my freedom of speech. It’s my right.” Yeah but nobody really wants to listen to someone who complains about a problem they can help solve.
For example, if you complain about the government but you’re not voting; why would anyone want to listen to you. And I know the system’s corrupt (anyone can see that). But at least I’m taking action when I vote. If someone comes up with a better way to vote, and get more people of integrity into office, I’ll vote for that; just like if someone has a better way (a non-violent way) of helping the homeless get off the streets, then I’ll take action and do my part.
If you’re someone who has difficulty in this area, then you have to make a choice. Are you going to be a designer who builds or a designer who destroys. Because a designer who destroys complains and does nothing. A designer who builds sees problems as mysteries to be explored. If you want to be a designer who builds, then do something. It doesn’t have to be big, or even extremely significant. If you have the heart of a designer, but aren’t seeking inspiration, then you’re not going to go anywhere. That’s why designers who have a mindset to destroy are dictators, corrupt politicians, CEO’s who make bank at their employees’ expense, etc. They’re not making the world better. They’re just hindering the movement of progress.
One of the things I do, is I write this blog. Not only to better my writing abilities, but share my ideas with other people. So far, ten people follow my blog. Do you think that’s greatly significant? Comparatively speaking to others who have a vast number of people following them, or liking their posts, probably not. But my mindset isn’t on how many followers I get, or how many people like my blog. Its about designing my writing, and sharing my ideas with others. What impact will it make? I don’t know. All I know is, I have a desire to show people ways they can be inspired; to help designers gain ideas for whatever they’re designing. Because to me, design is everything.