On December 27, 2011 I wrote an article entitled “Spotlight: The Portrait – A gift that was meant to be.” Two years have passed and the tradition set that Christmas by Capital Grille server/artist Jason Pransky has prevailed. He is one of those unique people who views his mission in life as bringing happiness to others. While this is somewhat off my topic as Writing Examiner, and Cherry Hill NJ is nowhere near Sin City, since it could be the inspiration for a book or short story, I’m taking that liberty.
Each year at Christmas time, Pransky has chosen to bring unexpected happiness to one of his regular patrons, or a family of patrons, at the restaurant. He has also given of himself and his talent at other times of the year to produce memorable portraits for them. This year the recipients of the surprise portrait were the Simmons family. As in the past, he worked behind the scenes with their daughter to get photographs to work from, so when the gift was presented it was a total surprise.
This is what I wrote two years ago, and if anything, the tradition of bringing happiness to others has escalated. Today December 29, is Pransky’s birthday, and it would be wonderful to give back “Likes” on his recently launched “Art for the Heart” Facebook page. How appropriate for someone with his spirit of giving to have been born between Christmas and New Years.
It is no secret that commercialism has dominated our holidays for several years, but there is another side to giving besides buying gifts for friends and family. It is one that is rare in today’s society and that is why when I hear a story like this, I have to write about it. It is about the true spirit of giving of yourself and the happiness it can bring.
There are many unsung heroes in our communities and as my readers know, I’ve written about a few. Today it’s my pleasure to relate another special story about a person whose very nature is to give to others.
One of the popular members of the wait staff of The Capital Grille in Cherry Hill NJ is a fellow of many talents. As Las Vegas Writing Examiner I generally present stories about local people in the writing community and I know that Cherry Hill is nowhere near Sin City, but he is the son of a Las Vegas author so I’m pushing the envelope.
When I heard this story I found myself wiping tears from my eyes. You see, besides being a waiter who makes every dining experience memorable for his customers, he is a talented artist who also holds a black belt in Karate and loves to work with building kids’ values. Last year he created a portrait of two of his favorite customers as a surprise anniversary gift.
A few months ago he was approached by the daughter of a customer who had seen his work. She asked if he would do a family portrait for her to give to her father as a Christmas gift. It was the beginning of the holiday season and he was pulling double shifts, which meant he didn’t get home until well after midnight. Doing the portrait after those long days meant he would be working about one hundred hours a week until it was finished. That just wasn’t in the cards and although he didn’t want to disappoint her, he had to tell her he wouldn’t be able to.
However, something kept tugging at him–an internal voice telling him he was supposed to do it. Finally, he contacted her and said if she could give him photographs to guide him, he would work on it after he came home from his regular job. She delivered the photos and from that time on he truly “burned the midnight oil” as the saying goes. Although he was tired after already working so many hours, he could be found bent over his drawing board until as late as 3 a.m. He was determined to finish the portrait in time for Christmas.
When the daughter called to tell him what happened when the gift was unwrapped, she told him her grandfather had died recently and the family had approached the holidays with lagging spirits. They didn’t know how they could summon the joy they should have. How could they laugh and celebrate when he was no longer with them? Then her father opened her gift and saw the faces of his family smiling back at him. He looked up from the portrait with tears of joy. Each of the family members who viewed the portrait felt this joy invade their souls and their spirits lifted. The wonderful gift penetrated the shroud of sadness that had overshadowed the closeness of this family and was the highlight of the gathering.
When the daughter had picked up the portrait and asked how much she owed, despite the long hours the artist spent he could not and would not accept payment. As he told me, he couldn’t charge for something he was picked to do. After she called, he knew his payment was the happiness he had given a family that had suffered a terrible loss. People who saw the portrait insisted he should be doing something more with his art. His answer: “I am doing something with it, I’m using it to make people happy.”
He told me his grandmother had planted that idea in his head when he was a young man of eighteen or so during the time he was an art major in college. He’d begun working as a waiter to make money for his expenses and would share stories with her about things he’d done during that day to bring a smile to his customers’ faces. She said, “Honey, your job isn’t slapping burgers down on a table, it’s making people happy.”
There is one detail I saved for last. I’ve known this artist, Jason Pransky, all of his life. He is my youngest son and he has been the embodiment of giving to others since he was a small child. What he did for this family was just one more thing that is typical of his beautiful spirit. I am so proud to call him my son. When I told him that after hearing this story, he thanked me through his own tears.
Now there is something you, as my readers, can do. His birthday is December 29. I think it would be awesome if after reading this column you would visit his Facebook page and send him birthday greetings.
Morgan St. James is the author of 12 books with new books slated for publication throughout 2015, and has written over 600 articles on the craft and business of writing. She is the co-host of the Writers Tricks of the Trade radio show on Blog Talk Radio and publishes the bi-monthly Writers Tricks of the Trade eZine.
Visit www.morganstjames-author.com and http://writerstricksofthetrade.blogspot.com for more information.