Of Ballerinas, Beasts, and a Mr. Briggs

During ballet class at Ballet Academy East, I saw, standing at the open doorway, a tiny little ballerina, completely in pink from barrette to slippers.

Something I love about this school is the dozens of equally pink and positively adorable little dancers I get to see running about the studio on weekday mornings.

This one was brave enough to stand right in our doorway, watching the 20 dancers inside with rapt attention.

We were on the across-the-floor section of class, and I found that my thoughts suddenly jumped to when I was about 10 years old, sitting in my first Broadway theatre, seeing my first Broadway show, Beauty and the Beast.


I will never forget that.  Our family won tickets at the Bloomsbury School Tricky Tray for the show, and it was SO very exciting to be going into New York City for a real Broadway show!  We even got to eat at Carmine’s beforehand.  I may not remember all the details of the show, but what stands out to me happened right as the show’s curtain was about to go down:

We were sitting third row center.  After all the bows occurred, the cast waved to the audience.

Well, the Beast/Prince waved right at me.  He made eye contact and waved to ME!

This was a HUGE thing for me, and I was so excited I probably talked about it the whole ride home.

Now back to the adorable little ballerina…

When I saw her watching us, I remembered how much it meant to me when the Beast looked at me and waved, showing that he wasn’t so far removed from ‘us’.

I made sure to smile and wave at that little girl.

Don’t you remember, a time when you were little, when someone bigger, ‘cooler’, older than you recognized you in some way?  Even the littlest gesture, it felt so good.

Even now, don’t we puff up a bit when a boss makes a positive comment on our work, or we meet a celebrity we are in awe of?

It may have meant nothing to the little ballerina, but maybe she’ll remember the day the ‘big dancer’ waved to her.  Either way, it meant something to me.


It inspired me.  Inspired me to remember what that feels like when someone takes the time to acknowledge with a smile.


This then brings me to the most pertinent part of today’s post.  If you have been reading from day one with me here on SimplyKate.co, you may remember “The Starfish Story”. If not, here is a reminder:

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “It made a difference for that one.”



Inspiring?  Yes indeed.


On a sunny, chilly Saturday three years ago, I attended the funeral service of one of the greatest men I have ever been blessed to know.  Mr. Briggs.  He is one of very few people I will never call by their first names…. He is just Mr. Briggs.  My 7th and 8th grade teacher.  Pancreatic cancer battled against him, and he put up a strong fight.  He knew for the last two weeks nearing his death that it was coming.  He even planned his own services along with his wife, Mac.



As Mom told me over the phone that a family member had been in touch with her trying to find out how to contact me to ask if I would be willing to sing, I burst into tears.  What an absolute honor, and I can still hardly believe he asked to have me as a part of his memorial.

When I spoke to Mac that evening, she told me one of his favorite songs was “One Moment in Time.”




Mr. Briggs was the quintessence of the word, inspire.

(And he taught me the word, quintessence, too… advanced vocab, one of his trademarks in the classrooms 😉 )


He had “The Starfish Story” up on the blackboard, right next to an article entitled, “Pretty Good May Not Be Good Enough” that was in the Express Times once upon a time.


Indulge me while I share a few of his other mantras (he taught me that word, too):


“Go out on a limb.”

“New experiences!”

“Ask questions.”

“Bloom where you’re planted.”      

“It mattered to that one…”


And one more thought here, from another student of Mr. Briggs’, one who still is in 4th grade in my head, but somehow has gotten to college already….I thought her words on his facebook wall were such a lovely insight:


I don’t know who honestly could not love Mr. Briggs! He was so selfless; A man whose actions spoke louder than words. He always brought sunshine where ever he went, and always knew how to encourage kids to see the good things in life instead of the bad. He would never tear down a student’s dream, no matter how outrageous it was. He was just a great human, teacher, friend, and role model.
Thank you Mr. Briggs for helping me become the student I am today. Having you as my teacher is, without a doubt, one of the best things to happen to me. You always were there, rain or shine. Thanks for impacting me, as well as hundreds of other students. 
Mr. Briggs, you are my hero.





Remember that we can all be that, Beast, Prince, Teacher, and so on, in so many ways that are as simple as a smile, each and every day.

With love and care,


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