A viral story about David Bowie giving a boy with autism his 'invisible mask' is a must-read
David Bowie was—and is—a legend in so many ways it's hard to keep track of them all. So perhaps it's not too surprising that a viral story of a touching encounter between Bowie and a boy with autism has people up in their feelings over the beloved rock icon.
Magrs explained that a friend told him that he had met David Bowie as a child in the 1980s. He had not yet been officially diagnosed with autism, so he was considered a "shy" or "withdrawn" child who wasn't particularly "good at being around strangers or lots of people." His friend said he and his mother had gone to London for a special screening of the movie Labyrinth, staring David Bowie—and the Goblin King himself had been there to meet the children who attended the screening.
"He told the story as if it was he'd been on an adventure back then," Magrs wrote, "and he wasn't quite allowed to tell the story. Like there was a pact, or a magic spell surrounding it. As if something profound and peculiar would occur if he broke the confidence."
Magrs asked his friend what had happened on his adventure, and the story of his magical meeting with David Bowie came spilling out:
'I was withdrawn, more withdrawn than the other kids. We all got a signed poster. Because I was so shy, they put me in a separate room, to one side, and so I got to meet him alone. He'd heard I was shy and it was his idea. He spent thirty minutes with me.
'He gave me this mask. This one. Look.
'He said: 'This is an invisible mask, you see?
'He took it off his own face and looked around like he was scared and uncomfortable all of a sudden. He passed me his invisible mask. 'Put it on,' he told me. 'It's magic.'
'And so I did.
'Then he told me, 'I always feel afraid, just the same as you. But I wear this mask every single day. And it doesn't take the fear away, but it makes it feel a bit better. I feel brave enough then to face the whole world and all the people. And now you will, too.
'I sat there in his magic mask, looking through the eyes at David Bowie and it was true, I did feel better.
'Then I watched as he made another magic mask. He spun it out of thin air, out of nothing at all. He finished it and smiled and then he put it on. And he looked so relieved and pleased. He smiled at me.
''Now we've both got invisible masks. We can both see through them perfectly well and no one would know we're even wearing them,' he said.
'So, I felt incredibly comfortable. It was the first time I felt safe in my whole life.
'It was magic. He was a wizard. He was a goblin king, grinning at me.
'I still keep the mask, of course. This is it, now. Look.'
I kept asking my friend questions, amazed by his story. I loved it and wanted all the details. How many other kids? Did they have puppets from the film there, as well? What was David Bowie wearing? I imagined him in his lilac suit from Live Aid. Or maybe he was dressed as the Goblin King in lacy ruffles and cobwebs and glitter.
What was the last thing he said to you, when you had to say goodbye?
'David Bowie said, 'I'm always afraid as well. But this is how you can feel brave in the world.' And then it was over. I've never forgotten it. And years later I cried when I heard he had passed.'
My friend was surprised I was delighted by this tale.
'The normal reaction is: that's just a stupid story. Fancy believing in an invisible mask.'
But I do. I really believe in it.
And it's the best story I've heard all year."
This world-famous artist sharing a trick for finding confidence and courage when the world feels a bit too big or too much give us a glimpse into his inner workings, and also shows how much he understood the semi-magical world children live in. Perhaps he had a foot in both worlds, which allowed him to tap his unique creativity and cross generations with his music and performances.
Whatever prompted him to take that extra time with this child, to help him feel brave and not like an outcast, it's a wonderful lesson for us all.