The Return of the 80’s to High-School

Last night I went to see the 80’s in action. My friends were almost unrecognizable with their frizzy curls, heavy make-up and brightly colored clothing. The boys were also different, though honestly I like the polo & slacks look better than the skinny jeans of today. (Just don’t ever go back to 80’s hair. Please.) I was surprised to recognize as many of the 80’s references as I did. I mostly have my parents to thank for that. Even before the play we were making a game out of who knew the most music. Apparently we all know more than we thought, but we are terrible with titles.

The first thing I noticed as the play began was that the kids were actually singing. There was no lip-syncing at all. I was very impressed with how many of our high-schoolers can sing. I didn’t hear anyone do a bad job and some of the songs left me feeling awestruck. Keep singing guys, you were awesome. Certain dances were fantastic and lots of fun to watch…I had my feet tapping and I was fidgeting in my chair, wanting to join in. As if all of this wasn’t enough, the quality of acting went above and beyond that of an average high-school play. The kids were all in character & most importantly, they looked like they were having a blast. I want to see more of that in the future. I definitely had a favorite scene…it had me laughing uncontrollably by the end of it. My second favorite scene was also pretty funny…..I like funny things. J I don’t really want to tell you too much about them but…Mr. Miyagi and Star Wars. Funniest scenes in the whole play. There were some other really good scenes as well. Sing offs, conflict through song, joy, sadness. There was a smooth blend of emotions that kept me guessing and feeling involved in the play. Musicals are easy to mess up, either with too much music or not enough. I don’t think that was the case in this play. The music played a key part in revealing the emotions of the story.

A subplot within the play involved the romance of two high-school teachers. All was going well with their relationship until the male teacher saw a picture of the female in a magazine he confiscated from a student. This scene was done tastefully, focusing on the conflict between the two. Several scenes later we are shown the pain of this male teacher. I felt pain with him. Indeed, I experienced horror. His thoughts of his female counterpart were explicitly revealed to the audience, through his song and her dance.

Which brings me to the one real criticism I have of this play. It is a heart breaking sorrow that the adults in charge of the play didn’t see anything wrong with having a high-school girl perform that dance. I don’t care if they wanted to show the character’s thoughts. His thoughts were impure. That young lady is beautiful, and a very talented dancer. They have no excuse for asking her to do a seductive dance that even I, as a woman, could not watch. If it is intended to inflame lust, is it ok just because she had some clothes on? Fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters were in the audience. Have we come so far that we no longer feel shame? Besides the damage done to the viewers, just how is this young lady going to see herself? There were teenage boys watching this. Men of all ages witnessed her dancing. They put her on a table in front of all of them, on display. I hurt for this girl. Maybe she’s been taught that there is nothing wrong with dancing in that way, but that’s irrelevant. The community, school, adults in charge of the play, other actors, and audience don’t have to participate in her harm, and that is one of the reasons I write this. I want her to know that she is a talented dancer. She doesn’t have to dance in the gutter for the sake of some play. She is worth more than that. She could make people’s minds and hearts soar with her dance.

The responsibility for this shame can’t lie on this talented young lady or the other teenagers that acted. I don’t know whether they spoke up or not. These are my friends from church. These are my sisters & brothers in Christ. The kids who aren’t Christians have been trained to believe that you can sacrifice everything for your career. My prayer is that they someday find something that is greater than any career. How are they going to do that when even the Christian teachers and authority figures are compromising their beliefs? Why won’t they fight to protect the youth entrusted to them?

I saw more than I should have. My friends stayed with me and did the same. Perhaps it would have been better had we left. Instead I just sat still, stared at the ground and prayed for it to end quickly. I was wrong too. How much have I compromised? I don’t know yet. More than was right. Not just in the play. We are in a Christian town and yet we are silent. Today is the end. Before God, I will write for Him and not just when I want to.

My prayers are with the high-school today. The play runs again tonight. Kids will be spending another exhausting session singing and dancing. These young men and women need our prayers, and our support. I’m not sure how to do that right now, but I do know that the Lord will fight for them. They are beloved by Him and precious so they must be the same to me. May God ever direct our steps. Shalom.

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The Invisible America

When speaking of America, people instantly have visions of thriving cities, apple pie, baseball, and loud yanks. Or perhaps they will think of the natural beauty of the grand canyon, or the architectural skill revealed in the golden gate bridge. Those who do not live within America (and some who do) can only begin to imagine the wealth of terrain, architecture, culture and societal structure that begins on the east coast and refuses to stop even at the west. (Thanks Hawaii)

That’s not what I see at all. The places that are truly America to me, don’t exist to most people. I live in a land that many Americans don’t even realize is a proper state. Within that state there is a city on the edge of a mountain. Let’s just say, that there is nothing of interest in that city. The heart of my America is found in a string of tiny towns running along the east of that place.

It would be easy enough to pass through our town in less than ten minutes. Unless you get stuck behind a beet truck and hit all the red lights. You might as well get comfortable if that happens. (Ok ok, it’s really not that bad…) But I could care less about the highway. I want to tell you about the town itself.

And I will. Later. One beautiful place at a time. If I feel a spurt of literary brilliance (or if my fellow citizens don’t burn my paper and pen by the time I’m done) I will even summarize it for you.

For now, lets talk about one thing that every proper town has in common. The grocery store. It’s a necessary aspect of life that goes unnoticed….until it’s taken away. America is blessed with plenty, which means we rarely stop to think about the exotic foods we can get anywhere. (I can guarantee that you aren’t growing any Bananas this far north.) Without our mundane little grocery stores, what would our towns look like? (Or taste like. No mexican vanilla. No costa rican coffee…..)

Let me tell you this. Chain stores are nothing compared to local grocers. Until I moved here a few years ago, I didn’t realize that chatting in line was an acceptable part of society. Addressing the cashier by name is a natural part of conversing with them. Complete strangers will strike up a conversation if the line is long or the store is especially busy. I’ve found myself spending an hour in the store when I meant to walk in for a couple of items because I ran into a friend.

Actually, I never walk into the store without recognizing someone. It’s awesome. If a display falls over and scatters stuff all over the floor, people who don’t even work at the store will help pick it up. Respect is a given, but in a small town grocery store people go above and beyond to treat one another well. When a mother comes in with a bunch of little kids people usually invite her to move to the front of the line.

I’ve had many instances of chastisement-not because anyone said anything-but because I was one of the least well mannered people in the store. (Coming from a pastor’s kid who has been trained up in manners since childhood, that’s really not an easy statement to make.) It’s the kind of society that people only see in movies usually.

Does it look like that every single day? Nah. We’re a town full of sinners. But this is the only place I’ve lived in where looking to other people’s interests above your own is a cultural norm. (Except for when pricing peanut butter. Seriously guys, I hate going to Walmart. You like it when I buy your stuff. Make peanut butter cheaper. Please.)

A couple of days ago I enjoyed another phenomena. I was the only customer in the entire grocery store. It was fantastic! I still took forever, because I can never seem to find what I want. (It would help if I remembered what I wanted for ten minutes straight.) And even though I was the only one there, people greeted me with a smile and made sure that they were available to assist me. Also, they asked why I wasn’t in school. And when I said “I’m homeschooled” they didn’t freak out like I was an alien. A polite conversation began about the pros and cons of homeschooling and they happily told me to enjoy my day. (Side note: It’s really hard to play hooky as a homeschooler…buying groceries for your family provides a pleasant respite from school.)

So now you know. Local grocers have the same products that every other store does. (Even if the peanut butter is spendier.)  The difference is the culture within them. (No, I’m not talking about yogurt.) Grocery stores may be almost invisible, but the people who work within them are a blessing to us all. Regardless of whether you shop local or in a chain store, treat the people who work there with respect. Without them, you wouldn’t ever be able to buy peanut butter. Or icecream. Or tortillas…a world without tortillas is a bad world. Society always has room for improvement. The easiest way to start, is with the places you go to the most.

America isn’t about the skyscrapers, the greasy food, the sports crazies. Sure, it wouldn’t be the same without them, but its core lies in the little things. The people you see every day will influence who you are. The way you treat them will change your environment. American pie is pretty dang great. Without the people to form it, you’ve just got a scattered mess of buildings and bragging rights. (Oh yea, people made those too.) So how about we go back to our origin. The individual. Not you. The one next to you. And the one by him. The girl behind the counter and the guy stacking up racks of fizzysodapopcoke. (Been too many places, couldn’t pick a word. Folks around here just call it pop.) They might be invisible to the outside, but they are what form America.