My daughter’s school play is this weekend, and for months now, I’ve been a stage mom of the highest order, reveling in the countdown of days (and hours…and minutes…) until the dress rehearsals and performances sweep us up in their delightful whirlwind. There’s nothing quite like production week.
This year’s production is The Little Mermaid Jr. and I’m just awestruck by the way it has come together. The tightly orchestrated efforts of the directors and voice coaches and choreographers. The countless hours put in by the costume and set designers. The happy buzz of the ticket sellers and the backstage chaperones and the makeup artists. The hustle and bustle of the crew with their black shirts and pants and props.
And then, of course, the cast of young actors and actresses who will bring the magic to life. Oh, yes.
I am positively humbled to be in the presence of such bravery. Such courage. These young students are going to stand on that stage in all their pre-teen and adolescent glory – with their braces and messy topknots and changing voices – and they are going to wear outrageously fabulous costumes and sing songs and dance dances and squawk like seagulls and speak with Jamaican and French accents for heaven’s sake – all for the glory of their art and the joy of the audience. They might miss lines and notes and marks, lose pieces of costumes, or mistime their entrances. And they might also bring down the house. Either way, it is going to be the most gorgeous, beautiful, holy thing we’ve ever seen.
As parents, and siblings, and friends, and teachers, we are going to sit on the edges of our seats and hold our collective breath as they take the stage, our hearts willing the lights to go on and the curtain to rise and the sets to change with ease. We are going to smile our biggest smiles and clap our loudest applause (and if we are me, we are also going to cry tears of pride and joy at the sight of our children doing the thing they love most of all in the whole wide world).
So, if something does go awry, we are not going to laugh, or point fingers, or whisper to our neighbor. We are going to be kind. We are going to honor their courage above all else. We are going to celebrate these children who have chosen to use their gifts to spread joy. And if we are smart, we are going to allow their courage to inspire our own.
If you haven’t seen the newest Disney Cinderella movie yet (out March 2015), you may not know that the central theme of the piece is this, “Have courage and be kind.” Cinderella’s mother dispenses this advice from her death bed and the whole movie is spent unpacking its magical wisdom. This is no fair-maiden-rescued-by-the-prince storyline. This is a young girl living out her values, enduring more than her share of suffering, and yet ultimately being rewarded for her courage, her patience, and her kindness.
Isn’t it true that our greatest work will be done when we have courage to pursue it?
And that our most helpful energy while others are exhibiting courage, is kindness?
In fact the thing that often keeps us from courageously stepping onto the path we feel drawn toward, is fear that others will be unkind as we do. That they will mock us, or criticize us, or voice their lack of faith in us. The very thought that these things might happen is sometimes enough to get us to stop before we ever begin.
Sadly, one reason we even think these fearful thoughts is because when we’ve seen someone stepping out courageously, we’ve been unkind ourselves. Our envy causes us to criticize, to tear down, or to mock the very people we could instead encourage. You’ve seen it with politicians, and business leaders, and celebrities. Or closer to home, you’ve seen it when someone in your circle applies for a promotion, or organizes an event, or writes a Letter to the Editor. When we think (or worse, we say), “Who does she think she is?”
We’re not always kind.
And what the world really needs is more people acting with courage, letting go of what other people might think or say, and bringing their gifts to the world.
So this weekend, as I watch those shining faces lifted in song, feeling their way to the high notes, delivering their lines with gusto, adjusting their costume fins and tails, I will shine kindness toward them, and borrow their courage as my own.
Where can you do the same?
Question: Where is fear of someone being unkind stopping you from acting in courage? Where is your own unkind self-talk the biggest inhibitor of all? Where you can you see and celebrate courage in someone else today by being kind?