One weekend, I drove approximately 180 miles in pursuit of my work. I appeared in two performances of a play, sang at a church service, went to an audition and acted in a student film. The income I expect from all of this effort might cover my car insurance, electricity and cell phone (if I’m careful). I work a rather un-inspiring office job to take care of the rest. The chance that it might lead to more lucrative work is probably smaller than the chance that I’ll win a lottery jackpot. I keep doing all this for one reason: I believe that I can best serve humankind by performing on stage.
It started several years ago, when I had a small part in a summer production of Man of La Mancha. I was leaving the theater after the Sunday matinee, when an old man approached me outside. He asked me if I was in the show, I said I was. He then told me how much he had loved it. He had been feeling sad and discouraged that day, and our performance had given him hope. I thanked him, and assured him I would pass his compliments along to the rest of the company (which I did).
Now, I had often been complimented on performances before, and had had people tell me how much my singing in church inspired them. But that encounter with the old man who had just seen me in Man of La Mancha showed me for the first time that I could inspired with secular work. It started me on a spiritual path that brought me to the belief that my mission in life is to perform, to use my talents to bring joy and satisfaction and, perhaps, even an understanding of the human condition to others. Before this, I had myself experienced the joys of witnessing a great performance. I have been enchanted by performances of Shakespeare and August Wilson. I have wept at hearing Verdi played by the Philadelphia Orchestra. I even realized how the seemingly uncomplicated entertainment of The Odd Couple contains a deft observation of the problems of living with another person. But now, for the first time, I realized that I could use my gifts to enhance the lives of others.
My lack of income pretty much limits my good works to knitting blankets for Project Linus and contributing the occasional can of soup to a food pantry. I lack the Godly selflessness and courage that would enable me to acts of heroism and self-sacrifice. But I can perform. I can contribute to the music in church to raise the spirits of the congregation. I can help people forget their troubles for a few hours with a comedy or melodrama. And I believe that maybe, just maybe, my work on stage or in concert hall will make a difference in someone’s life.
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