Thursday 1 February 2024

Look At This

I’m just going to talk about my wife for a minute. Like most people out being Jesus in the world, she won’t be too thrilled with that, but frankly, I think when you see Jesus in the world, you should point and say “look! Jesus.”

Lori has a lot of gifts, and I couldn’t cover them all, but I want to talk about one of the places where she uses them: amateur theatre. I’m saying “amateur” because I first got to know Lori through community theatre, but this is going to be about school kids.

Part of Lori’s job as Wellness Worker in our little community is that she spends most of the year in the school. In addition to the wellness of the students and staff, she leads the theatre program for both junior and senior high students. With a K-12 school population of about 250, the pool of kids is relatively small and it’s a class, so, basically, if you’re in the class, you’re in the show. You might audition for a particular part you’d like, but just being there puts you on stage or in the tech booth. Lori works with a teacher, but there’s no choreographer, vocal coach, set designer or  builders, costumer or live band. There’s some parent help, but the kids also do some of that work. I’ll come back to that.

At junior high age, a few of the kids might have some theatre experience, or have sung in a choir or maybe been in a church Christmas play, but most will be acting on stage for the first time. And singing and dancing and doing choreography because Lori picks musicals. Not only because they involve more kids, but because they involve more skills.

The junior high kids just did Frozen (the junior version - it’s about an hour and ten minutes instead of two hours). Certainly one of the most familiar shows of the last ten years, with songs you just can’t get out of your head, it’s also one of those Disney shows that has to look and sound like the real thing. It did. And it was really good. And when you take into account everything you just read, it was amazing and, best of all, full of joy. But the three performances after weeks of learning and rehearsals isn’t why I’m talking about it.

Lori has a gift for seeing the potential in people. She then works with that potential to encourage it, support it and draw it out. She has a vision of where things are going, but gets there with the gifts of each individual living into their potential. She does that by creating a safe, encouraging place where kids feel they can be vulnerable and try new things without fear of embarrassment or that they’ll be made fun of or criticized. They’re honoured and respected for who they are. There’s compassion and empathy. There’s care and support. They learn to work collaboratively because there is a willingness to learn and grow. They build community. Kids can feel like they belong, not just because they’re fitting in, but because their gifts are contributing to building that very community. And as each of them discover those gifts, learn how to use them and to share them, they grow in confidence as people and how they express themselves. That isn’t found in the performances, but in the weeks getting there and in the weeks after, as they learn how to share those gifts beyond that one experience. It can be life changing. It’s not perfect, but we’re not either.

So, “look! Jesus.” But also, Look! What a great model of community! The kind of community Jesus had in mind. Jesus didn’t seek out conformity or control but diversity and inclusion, because that’s what creates an engaging, caring, growing community. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it because we are worthy of it. Just ask Lori. 

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