A friendship and the generosity of strangers spur a hobbyist's love for building a tiny world.
Jason McCarley is eager to show off the miniature building he made entirely from Legos. “This is a small house, something that I wish I could live in,” he says. In fact, a facsimile of himself does live in it, he adds, pointing to a Lego figure “in full regalia as a Knight of Columbus.”
McCarley, 43, is standing in a room filled with built-to-scale houses and other structures, including a fire station and three ships. All are finished in elaborate detail, and all are made from Legos, the toy construction material his grandparents introduced to him when he was only 5.
Standing nearby is Mike Gohr, a retired schoolteacher who’s known McCarley for the past six or seven years. “This is the kind of stuff that just amazes me—that he’s got that kind of talent,” Gohr says.Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to our weekly newsletters.
He and McCarley met through the Knights of Columbus and became friends while doing volunteer work together. Since McCarley is on medication for autism and is unable to drive, Gohr often picks him up at his Reynoldsburg apartment so they can help out at sites like a local food pantry. It was after one such trip that McCarley introduced Gohr to his beloved hobby.
“He said, ‘Come on up and I’ll show you something,’” Gohr recalls. “I thought, ‘My God, this is incredible!’”
Unfortunately, the hobby is also incredibly expensive, especially for someone whose income consists of disability payments. Gohr decided to lend a hand by going on his neighborhood Facebook page and asking if anyone had Lego sets they no longer needed. “The response was immediate,” he says, with people not only offering used sets but buying new ones to donate as well. In all, he estimates 15 families have given about 15,000 Legos. The result of all this generosity can be seen in the spare Lego pieces that McCarley has carefully sorted and stored in bins for future use.
Besides the Lego projects, McCarley’s apartment is full of his other handiwork, such as wall hangings in the form of doll-like figures, Jesus and the American flag, most of which are made from felt. “I don’t drive, I don’t watch TV, and I don’t play video games,” he says. “I just spend my time on my hobbies.”
Such crafts serve to keep McCarley’s mind focused, Gohr explains. “He says it helps him if he feels like he’s going into any kind of depression.”
Now that Gohr has helped McCarley augment his supply of Lego pieces—though more are always needed—he has started looking for ways to share his friend’s art. The two aren’t sure how to go about accomplishing that, but Gohr thinks it would be valuable to demonstrate what someone like McCarley can do with some Legos and an abundance of creativity.
“It’s something to inspire, I guess,” Gohr says. “We live in a world where inspiration is a real plus.”
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