Where it came from — I don’t know. It was just there,
the empty frame in my room. Just this one. Golden. Waiting.
Hopeful. In my room. I never questioned it, in the way that
one doesn’t question a pure gift. It was there, and I knew
I had to fill it.
I sat alone in my tiny room. Paper, crayons, and pencils in
hand, I began to draw my world, Create myself
a life. I had to. I had to be something. I was not
going to disappear. For that was the true fear — not
the angry words that so often filled the house.
“You’re nothing,” he said. How could he think so? I was
only a child. I colored brightly. I could have believed him.
And that could have been my ending. It would have been
easy. But there was this frame. And my hands.
I chose not to end, but to begin!
The paper came to life. The colors jumped from the
paper. No matter how many times he told me I was nothing, the
paper said something different. I had been given a gift.
The gift of an empty frame. The gift to make a choice.
With paper and colors,
I painted him wrong.
I didn’t have the words for
it then, at five; but somehow
I knew, with all the certainty
of Cézanne, that
When Cézanne said, “With an apple, I will astonish Paris,”
some may have found it bold
— and maybe it was —
we have to be.
You have to be bold to take the
ordinary and make it extraordinary. To take this life
and make it astonishing.
And that’s what Cézanne did when he painted an apple.
With care and thought and heart, he brought the painting
It didn’t shout. It didn’t shock. It didn’t need to.
Because it breathed. It was alive!
Now that’s astonishing.
He knew that with this simple object — this simply
beautiful apple — he could change the way you saw things.
He could take something ordinary and make it
He could hold your heart in the palm of his hands.
Take your breath away with something you yourself had held, had touched.
It was something so simple, so beautiful, so attainable, that it
made you want to reach for it. Believe in it. Hold out your own
hands and know that in this life there is real beauty —
right there in front of you —
He reached out his hand with a brush
and painted an apple
and told you that it was all possible.
It is possible.
And breathless, with nothing but hope and desire,
you believe it.
A gift that makes
that’s beyond beauty,
I didn’t know that Paris existed, but I, too, was going to be
bold enough to change the way the world saw things, the way
he saw things, the way I was seen.
I was going to be bold enough. Brave enough.
I was going to be enough, just me, just my tear-stained,
color-filled hands, I was going to be enough to fill that empty frame.
And that had to be something!
I had never heard of Cézanne.
I had not even read a book on art.
But that magic was in the air, the universe.
That magic remains in the air.
For all of us.
This power to astonish lives in us, and all around us. This power
to astonish, to make us change the way we are seen, to change
the way the world is seen — it’s right here. It sits on our tables
and in our hearts.
A gift just waiting to be opened.
A frame just waiting to be filled.
But it needs you.
There’s a gift that’s just for you, but you have to claim it.
You have to dare to say, That’s mine.
You have to dare to give of yourself, as
freely as the gift was given. As freely as this gift said yes to you,
you have to do the same. You have to say, yes, I see!
You have to be bold enough to embrace it, even when others will
tell you it isn’t there. That YOU aren’t there. You have to be bold
enough to say, I have been given a gift. I have been given a life
that is worthy of being seen. I am here. And that is something!
I am really something.
And it won’t be easy. They, he, and she will tell you no.
In their own fear, they will try to keep you afraid. Lost.
Invisible. And they will give you every reason not to
believe. Not to be yourself. Not to try.
But it is in you. Your apple.
That thing that coddles your soul,
colors your life,
lifts your heart, challenges your mind,
makes you human,
makes you – you!
That’s your apple.
Your apple. The thing that you are willing to do
again and again. The thing you wake up early for.
Stay up all night for.
The thing that makes the red bleed through your every
muscle and makes you feel more alive than
you ever have.
The apple that speaks louder than
any negative voice around you.
The apple that says yes. The apple that keeps you alive,
keeps you trying, shows you the beauty of the struggle
and the victory.
Just by filling your frame,
living your true life,
using your true gift,
you will be astonishing.
The truly astonishing thing is that there is a world
of people doing the same. This is who you surround yourself with
— people using their gifts every day to make this world beautiful.
To make this world bigger than Paris.
Bigger than New York. Bigger and more beautiful than any
of us have ever seen.
A world of people opening doors and highways and hearts, just
by living. Just by being bold enough to be themselves and to share
their amazing gifts, they, too, give us reasons
every day, to hope, to believe, to try.
FIND THEM. SEE THEM.
LISTEN TO THEM.
Every time someone dances, that
dance stomps on the words, “No, you can’t.”
Every time someone tells their story, that story
erases the words, “You’re not special.”
Every time someone paints,
that painting covers the words,
Someone is doing that for you.
You can do it too!
Maybe you were born to paint. To dance. To write. To create.
It’s your thing — it’s your apple — you know what it is.
Maybe you were put here to solve problems.
To discover. Nurture. Build. Invent.
You know it in your heart.
I paint. I write. Every day.
Right now someone is daring to get on that stage.
Someone is going to class. Crossing lines and putting out fires.
Someone is planting. Molding. Reforming. Changing laws.
Someone is breaking stereotypes and knocking down barriers.
Right now someone is raising children.
Right now, you are thinking, maybe I can . . .
Right now, you are willing to try.
Right now, the world is welcoming your apple.
Your beautiful, glorious,
Right now, I tell you that I made it out of my tiny bedroom. I made
it to New York. I made it to Paris. I have walked the steps of Cézanne
in Provence. But more importantly, I have walked the steps of my
I have painted myself to life.
I have written my own story.
With my apple, I have filled my frame. With my apple,
I have astonished myself.
Right now, I’m looking at you. The Eiffel Tower fades.
Reds and golds and greens shine in your eyes so brightly,
and the world is ready to be astonished by you.
Isn’t that something?!!!
Do your thing — whatever that may be —
that thing that coddles your soul —
lifts your heart — challenges your mind —
makes you human —
makes you — you!
Do that — do that every day.
That’s your apple.