6 illustrations of monsters can teach us a valuable lesson about empathy.

There are two sides to every story. Yep, even in monster movies.

Have you ever stopped to wonder "Why?" Why does the Kraken destroy sea-faring ships? Why does Godzilla lay waste to city after city?

Why doesn't Medusa just get a haircut already?


Artist Teo Zirinis has wondered.

In a hilarious and poignant set of illustrations he calls "Monster Issues," he sets out to give us the answers and show us what it's like to put ourselves in someone else's shoes — no matter how slimy or smelly they might be.

"It all started with Cthulhu," he told me.

Cthulhu, the monstrous creation of H.P. Lovecraft, is said to be part octopus, part man, and part dragon.

"It's a name that's pretty hard to spell. I pictured him trying to write it down and failing miserably every time and thought it would be a fun idea to illustrate."

All images from Teo Zirinis/Hands Off My Dinosaur, used with permission

(No wonder Cthulhu is so grumpy; only a few paragraphs into writing this piece, my spellcheck burst into flames.)

More monsters soon followed.

Like Bigfoot, the hairy, lumbering oaf who just wants someone to believe in him:


Then there's the classic zombie.

Poor guy. We're all so worried about him ripping the flesh from our bodies that we never stop to think that being a zombie must kind of suck.

And Godzilla!

Turns out he's really just an architecture snob. "This skyscraper is so derivative," I imagine him saying as he topples one to the ground.


Finally, there's Nessie, aka the Loch Ness Monster.

She might be the most famous monster on the planet, yet there's not a single good photo of her to be found. How do you think that makes her feel?

"It turns out their lives are harder than they seem," Teo says.

Guess I'd never thought of it that way, but you know what? He's right.

And maybe that's what Teo is really getting at in these illustrations. Yeah, his subjects are monsters, but they could just as easily be the guy who just cut you off in traffic or an anonymous stranger on the sidewalk.

Everyone has a story. If we look closely enough, they might just surprise us.

Teo plans to continue the series — after all, there are so many more monsters to cover, including some of Teo's favorites like the Wolf Man and Frankenstein. (Spoiler alert: Wolf Man must be itchy like all the time.)

Keep up the great work, Teo, and thanks for showing us that things we don't understand aren't always as scary as we imagine.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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