What I'm about to write just may shock you. I have a bit of a rep as not being overly fond of children, a reputation which really isn't so much merited. To be honest with you, I like kids. A lot of my "kid hating" is honestly done for humor more than anything. I mean, hating kids is just funny.
But the truth of the matter is that I like kids. No, it's more than that. I admire kids. And a couple incidents from the past couple weeks have reinforced that admiration and respect I have for our younger friends.
1. A friend of mine just posted on Facebook to let us all know he and his family had just returned from a vacation. They went camping -- no television, cell phone service, wifi, nothing for days on end. At one point, Steve was apparently bemoaning this fact when his eight-year-old daughter said, "Dad, look at this river. We don't NEED TV with that." How many of us lose sight of the simple beauty of what's around us? Once when driving through the mountains of Colorado, I became so obsessed with taking pictures of the beauty that I honestly forgot to actually stop and admire the beauty. How many times have we found ourselves surrounded by beauty or excitement or just life itself and all we can think about is texting or wondering what TIVO is holding for us? Little Abbie wasn't worried about missing an episode of "iCarly"; she was too busy grooving on the beautiful nature around her. A lesson we all could take.
2. The cast of The Music Man was filled with small kids, many of whom were making their stage debut. One such kid was a little boy named Will. Will spent every moment in sheer awe of what was going on around him. The stage manager said that Will could often be found backstage just watching with this smile on his face -- even if it was just a scene change. During rehearsals, when actors were moving furniture to get ready for the next scene, little Will would skip (SKIP) onto stage and kind of flit around -- seeming to realize he really couldn't be of much help but wanting to be part of the process, even if it was just walking alongside a bench being moved. His joy at being part of the process was just infectious. He served as a reminder of why we should be doing this -- it's freakin' fun to do theatre. We get wrapped up in who gets what part or how much time we get to spend onstage that we forget to just relax and have fun. Will never once forgot that, except for maybe when he cut his hand backstage and was too hysterical to go onstage.
3. Another friend of mine brought his young daughters to see The Music Man this weekend. One fell asleep (she's 3; cut her some slack). The other seemed delighted by what went on. While her parents dealt with her sleeping sister after the show, I offered to take Amber backstage to see the set upclose. Even for a kid raised on theatre (her parents are both theatre folk), Amber was dazzled by the opportunity to walk onstage and sit at Marian's piano or walk into the library (where her attention was quickly stolen by Marian's sparkly purse). The lesson? Don't lose your childlike wonder at anything and everything -- even if it's just a pretty purse.
4. One of my jobs as production manager was to organize strike. I had a cast of 60, many of whom were small children. Somehow, the idea of putting a drill into the hands of an 8 year old just seemed not good. Many of the kids were given the simple task of hanging up their costumes and then leaving with their parents. I had several kids, though, whose parents were in the show and couldn't just leave because I needed their parents to help strike. I came up with the idea of taking a group of these kids and putting them in charge of script check-in. (Musical scripts have to be returned after being erased of any and all marks.) I gave each of my chosen crew a pink eraser and a box and told them they needed to go through the scripts, erase marks, and check off the turned in scripts. These kids (the oldest was maybe 11 or 12) took this job so seriously. The five of them sat in the house solemnly erasing away. The one I appointed "crew chief" would track down cast members who had not turned scripts in yet. I couldn't have asked for a better, more dilligent crew. What these five kids (and a big shout out to Amanda, Jensen, Marie, Eleanor, and Walker) showed me was that no job is too small, and that every job deserves 100%, even if it's something so simple as erasing pencil marks from a script.
If we could all just make a concerted effort to adopt that sort of childlike wonder and diligence, think how much happier we could all be . . . . .