Tonight, our church’s youth group put on a show that had the entire audience laughing and thinking. I had a hand in it, but I’ve gotten much more from the work than I’ve given to it, for sure.
The whole project started as an idea by our choir director, Beth. She decided we’d do a spring musical tour, maybe three or four stops. So she pondered and prodded, never finding what she was looking for in a work. I finally piped up the words I’m so famous for saying, “Hey, I can take care of that.”
Predictably [after all, I’m a graduate of IJSM!], I was late in getting it finished. Beth and I cobbled together something that seemed pretty hokey, but it worked. We mishmashed five songs that are about as alike as taking a random selection from Abba, Steely Dan, the Rolling Stones, Blues Traveler, and James Taylor [yeah, it’s really that variegated] and pieced together some words to fit the middle. That was my part–to try to bring it together.
We were a week out from our first performance, less than that, really, when I got the second biggest shock in the past year: Beth had suffered a stroke. All the old feelings of helplessness and God-directed anger rose up again: Beth is in many ways my mother here in Huntsville, working to keep me in shape and out of trouble. We understandably postponed the first performance while replacements could be found.
To be quite honest, I was a bit miffed that I wasn’t asked to help out with the musical. I didn’t expect to direct it–I directed a children’s choir last year, and while the production went off pretty well, I’m not sure I had a whole lot to do with it. But it really felt as if Beth was the only one that knew I’d done much of anything with the musical. I know it confused the kids–in the first practice with our new directors, some of the kids kept looking to me for direction. As Beth and I often shared hand-waving duties [mainly because Beth can play the piano and I can’t, and when we are without our excellent accompanist, Rebecca, I get to flap around like I’m cool or something], I wasn’t surprised. Yes, it did hurt a bit. Yeah, it was frustrating. But I knew my role: to help with the drama. So that I did.
Fast forward to last weekend, when we all went over to Anniston. The kids were a bit nervous, understandably so. I related to them the story of the insanity that was MSMS’s spring musical my junior year–getting to see the stage on which we’d perform just scant hours before first curtain. Me, dumb enough to take on stage direction as well as a supporting actor’s role. All of us, running around like madmen. They laughed, and I think it calmed them a little bit. At least they listened when I told them to go somewhere.
That performance was good, but tonight’s was better. To be honest, they sounded horrible in warmups, which is always a good sign in any group I’m around, most of the time. Then Beth walked in the back of the sanctuary: the singing stopped, the choir stood, and the peasants rejoiced. I teared up, even though I knew she was coming.
The kids proceeded to turn out a performance I knew they were capable of turning out but unsure they’d ever let themselves perform. They were always too hesitant to just let loose and have fun–until tonight. Maybe it was the home crowd. Maybe it was seeing Beth. [I’d bet on ’em both.] Me, I just got to sit in my corner on the side of the stage area, give out one line when Charlie forgot the same line he always forgets, and laugh and watch it all.
That anonymity is something I both dread and crave. I have, shall we say, a healthy self-respect, and so I would like to get credit. I was a big disappointed when the kids passed out gifts to all the directors, musicians, and band members–all but me. I was happy to sit there in the corner and let everyone who well and truly deserved the accolades–those who walked in at the last minute and gave everyone–myself included!–some much-needed direction in getting the performance to restaurant-quality. At the same time, I knew the kids had decided whom would be recognized, and I wondered, “Did they forget all the practices I came to, staying late, forsaking my friends’ entreaties to do other things that would have been more fun than correcting bad projections and mumbling?”
After the performance, I tried to affix a blank look on my face as I took the sound system down. I went over it in my mind, “God gets the glory here. Fine for me to be in the dark.” To be honest, though, I wanted to reflect just a little of that glory back. I’m an imperfect mirror, and the words contained in that play are more God’s work than mine, but didn’t I deserve just a little credit for being there?
Beth came up to me. She knew. She congratulated me, I shrugged it off, but our eyes did all the talking. The look of gratitude was all I needed. The smile of a woman I love like my own mother…that’s all I needed. It’s all I wanted–some recognition, not necessarily public, that my time was indeed appreciated.
But now I’m worried, because Charlie came up to me afterwards, draped an arm around my shoulder, and said, “In case you’re curious, we’ve got something lined up for you for next weekend.” With that, he clapped my shoulder and walked off to talk to someone else. I’m seriously worried–I don’t quite know what that something is. In fact, they needled me about it later on, using lines from the play. [I’m going to get them for that!]
In the end, all I wanted was a thank-you. I got it–in the kids doing such a solid job, then thanking me later for the time I’d spent. The public crap–well, that’s all for show. The kids know, Beth knows, I know, and God knows. Who needs more than that? I thought I did, but thinking back on last year;s performance, I was rather embarrassed at all the “What a great job!” comments I got from parents and churchgoers alike. After all, all I’d really done was been there, waved my hands around in the air, sung a few songs, and acted goofy. I need to be thanked for that? To paraphrase Shoeless Joe Jackson’s persona in Field of Dreams, man, I’d do that for nothin’.
No, I don’t need the accolades, though they’re nice. This ego thing is something I’m slowly [and some days unsuccessfully] kicking to the curb. The accolades really reflect on the kids and the time they’ve spent. I could spend all the time I had, and if they didn’t put anything into it, you wouldn’t know it from the final output. The kids are going to come up with some way to thank me next week here in Huntsville at another local church, but I already got the thanks I wanted tonight: a job well done.