“As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has—or ever will have—something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.”

Fred Rogers

Ah, Toledo. This quaint Spanish city, with its winding streets and historical charm, is often dubbed a hidden gem, and for good reason. My wife and I found ourselves enraptured by the allure of this place on a trip many years ago. The cobbled streets whispered tales of yore, and the architecture—oh, the blend of medieval and modern—it was like stepping into a dream where every corner held a secret.

However, what truly made Toledo come alive for us wasn’t just its physical beauty. It was a charismatic man named Fernando. An elderly gentleman with a twinkle in his eye, Fernando claimed the title of the city’s most enthusiastic art guide. His full life had been spent in Toledo, or as he would passionately put it, “the most beautiful and magnificent city in the world.”

Fernando had this unique ability. As we walked through various art galleries, he didn’t just show us paintings or sculptures; he presented tales, emotions, and visions. The brush strokes became whispers of artists from centuries past, and the colors seemed to dance and play right in front of us. With Fernando leading the way, even a simple vase wasn’t just a vase—it was, according to him, “the most beautiful and magnificent vase in the world.”

But here’s the thing: it wasn’t just about the art. Fernando’s enthusiasm was infectious. With every “magnificent” he uttered, he made each of us feel like we were part of something grander. There was a moment when he paused in front of a particularly vibrant painting, its colors swirling in a mesmerizing dance. Turning to us, he exclaimed, “Just like this painting, each of you is a unique masterpiece. No two brush strokes alike, no two colors the same.”

His words settled in deep. In the reflection of each gilded frame, amidst the timeless art pieces, we saw ourselves as Fernando saw us—as irreplaceable pieces of a vast, intricate puzzle. We weren’t just passive observers; we were part of the grand narrative, as essential and vibrant as every piece of art in that city.

By the end of the tour, it was clear: Fernando didn’t just teach us about art. He taught us about life. The world is brimming with masterpieces, not just hung on walls but walking around, laughing, dreaming, and living. Each person’s life, with its blend of experiences, triumphs, fears, and dreams, is its own work of art.

I left Toledo with a heart full of gratitude and a lesson I’d cherish forever. We all have the power, just like Fernando, to make others feel seen, valued, and truly magnificent. Every individual is a masterpiece, and when we recognize that beauty in one another, the world becomes a gallery of unparalleled splendor.

Fernando tells us how much he loves Toledo And us

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Product + Content Marketing at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.