We each have moments of remarkable privilege in our lives. Moments we don’t deserve. Relationships we are not worthy of. Opportunities that go far beyond our merit.
For the past several years. I’ve had the opportunity to lead our Youth Drama troupe at church. Kids come and go and each year we’ve had new faces, new talent and a new family.
That’s not the only thing that’s changed over those years. Our ministry, our rehearsals, our space, everything has come and gone and come again.
I’ve watched these young people transform from kids running around saying lines into fine actors who truly embrace the craft and who fully bring characters to life.
When we began, they held the scripts desperately. I had to force them to memorize things. The lines belonged to the page, the page belonged to the script, the script belonged to someone else. Many times, the actors seemed to be wearing other people’s words and actions.
Over time we learned together. They began to see more and more of the story. It was slow and I probably over-directed while they probably under-acted, but I began to see things in each of them.
Bit by bit, they grew courageous, they took risks and they entered the stories. I selected, or wrote, more and more difficult scripts. I challenged them and they challenged themselves more. I supported them and they surprised me. I’d hand out a script on a given Tuesday and often it was completely memorized by the next Tuesday.
The characters sprang from the page. Once foreign lines now belonged to them. No longer were the actors trying to fit into the script, they took the story from the author and made it their own. There were scripts that I have directed a half dozen times that took on new life.
“To be or not to be” are familiar words from a poignant moment in Hamlet’s life where he must choose between two paths. He must choose to exact vengeance for his father’s murder or he must choose to accept the seemingly inevitable pain and agony of his life. Within the soliloquy he contemplates suicide as an escape from choosing.
The words “To be or not to be” reflect a deeper decision that we all relate to. Do we take courage and stand up in action and in commitment, or do we sit back and let life decide? Do we dare “be” and face the slings and arrows and obstacles and potential defeats or do we settle for “not to be” and cower in helplessness against what comes.
“To be” is to embrace and to confront and to lean in to all the wonders of life and the things of life that make you wonder. “To be” is to find courage where you think it’s long gone, it is to say “yes” and “no” with confidence and live them out, it is to commit and to carry on. “To be” is worth sharing with others. It is to lift them up when you can and bear their burdens when they cannot. It is passion and community and the best of life, even in its worst moments.
Thank you, Skyela and Josh, Bethany, Sam and Caitie for exemplifying what it means “to be.” We have shared more than scripts and stories, you’ve learned more than lines. If you have learned from me half of what I have learned from you, I am grateful. You have blessed me, deeply and often.
For those who go their separate ways this summer, may you continue to have the courage “to be.” May you face life head-on and carry those around you on your shoulders. May you embrace all that comes your way and miss no opportunities to give life, to bring goodness and generosity, to share light with others.
May you never “act” again, and may you always simply “be.”
With all my heart, thank you.