“Let us also smile even if it was a difficult day, because we see the hope.”
– Pope Francis
One of my favorite memories as a child was my grandmother taking me to a local theatre summer camp for kids that would put on a number of shows. Summer Stage is well known even outside of the Philadelphia area - not only for the quality of the instruction but the caliber of the talent that it attracts and makes that much better. My wife still has an annual tradition of going to their “mainstage” production with her mother and sisters. This year, an extra ticket opened up, and without even knowing what musical it was, I knew it would be more enjoyable than a night at home with the kids.
The show was “Memphis,” a musical loosely based on the story of a white Tennessee disc jockey who was one of the first to play Black music on the radio in the 1950s. From the beginning of the opening number, I was blown away by the students’ voices. Then it happened – a major set malfunction. The radio station in the center of the stage was on a rotating wheel that was meant to spin 180 degrees and allow the set to change. Except on this night, after rotating about 90 degrees, it was clear the set was stuck. The audience gasped. Amazingly, the ensemble wasn’t fazed at all as they continued their elaborate dance routine and the stage crew tried to push the wheel through.
Everyone was on the edge of their seat for the next time the set changed. A few numbers later, the same thing happened. Stuck. This time one of the main characters was stuck. The stage crew jumped in even quicker and again the rest of the performers carried on without literally skipping a beat. As the crew picked up the set and carried it off the stage, the audience went wild with applause as these students performed with a poise, passion, and power way beyond their age. What might have been considered a catastrophe in a normal performance seemed to be a catalyst for community. It captured everything that Summer Stage is really all about.
As the stage crew worked quickly over intermission to create a solution that stuck, or rather didn’t get stuck, I sat reflecting on the show within the show I had just witnessed. It made me wonder, whether for colleagues at work, fellow parishioners, or even those in my family: what part do I play when someone is experiencing a challenge? Do I simply gasp and gawk at the mistake or do I encourage them as they work to fix it? Do I only reward perfection or do I demonstrate my appreciation for perseverance? Am I the type of leader, colleague, friend, and fellow disciple that reminds people of all the times they got stuck, or do I help them remember how the Lord and the community are present to get them unstuck?
As the students enjoyed their well-deserved standing ovation, I was grateful for the reminder that “the show must always go on” and my job as a leader is to help those I love to get to their curtain call, not without mistakes, but with a cast and crew behind them to cheer them on through whatever they might face. Prayers that you “break a leg” in whatever role the Lord has called you to play in His great work of art this week.
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