Today is May 1 – or 501st Day if you’d like. In honor of this arbitrary day, I thought I’d share a story about why I think cosplay and costuming is worthwhile.
There are many reasons why I like this hobby of mine. The main reason is of course because I like the Star Wars movies, but I also do this because costumes are fun, because of the friendships I’ve found in the community, because the charity work we do is good, because it is interesting learning how the original costumes and props were made, and so on. One important aspect is spreading joy, and that’s what I’d like to focus on now.
A few years ago, I stood guard (in costume) by the 501st booth at a cosplay convention when this teenager came up to me. When I’m trooping I tend to not notice people much. My field of vision is very limited and I can’t hear very well. But this girl made an impression.
The girl said she wanted to thank me. Or rather, thank the 501st Legion. She told me she had been sick when she was younger. Very sick. She had been hospitalized, and had wanted to just give in to her illness and fade away.
Around the time of her hospitalization, a few troopers from the 501st Legion had made a visit to the children’s ward.
That day was the first time she had smiled in weeks, she told me, and she thought it was amazing to see the other kids light up – kids she had spent many days with and only seen sadness and pain. The visit was a simple gesture, but it meant so much for them and for her.
This! This is why I do what I do. To know that this silly costuming hobby of mine actually means something for someone… It gives value to every hour spent gluing, painting, sanding, sewing, sweating and swearing. It makes every blisters and armor bites and wounds worth it. Just knowing that some kid feel joy and wonder in their heart because of us.
I was moved listening to the girl’s story. She had found hope, and now she had beat her illness. I’m sure she would’ve recovered regardless, but I couldn’t help but feel happy for her.
My retelling of her story doesn’t do her justice. She spoke from her heart, I just speak from the memory of my encounter with her at the convention. (I like to point out that I wasn’t at that hospital visit. She approached me at this convention simply because I was part of the 501st Legion, and she wanted to thank us.)
But the story doesn’t end yet! Last year I attended the same convention again. A cosplayer came by our booth. I recognized her instantly. It was the same girl!
Although she didn’t recognize me at first (I was out of costume this time), she did remember our conversation a few years ago when I asked her about it. She was surprised and happy that I had remembered her.
I asked her about her costume. She said that she had been inspired to persue cosplaying as a hobby partly because of the 501st visit. Her costume was from some videogame I don’t know much about, but she was delighted to explain how she had researched and crafted every single detail. She’d become a true costumer, obsessing over the smallest details!
She then told my that she would be attending her first hospital visit as a character soon. Not as Star Wars character, but we can let that slide, right? At least for now 🙂
Above: Me guarding the 501st Booth at a convention, August 2019.
(Note: not the same convention as mentioned in the text.)