There are few things that thrill me as much as seeing young people pull together and put on a high-quality school musical. My own ‘Winston Churchill High School’, which I graduated in 1972, was famous for two things: an excellent ‘British Bulldogs’ basketball team and an unforgettable drama/music program by Mrs Norman. The year I graduated, our school put on a smash-hit version of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. As I had just had a profound spiritual encounter with Jesus Christ that spring, my interest level was high in the school musical.
I remember when my youngest son Andrew had the privilege of playing the part of Professor Harold Hill in his BCCA School’s The Music Man production . If I say so myself as an unbiased parent, he was thoroughly believable. My favorite song in the production was ‘Trouble Right Here in River City’. What impressed me most in seeing the play was the self-sacrificing attitude of the entire cast. No one tried to be a prima donna. No one gave a half-hearted performance. Everyone, and I mean everyone in the entire cast, poured out their heart, mind and soul night after night at the Evergreen Theatre. The sense of school spirit and teamwork was palpable and real. I particularly enjoyed the performances of Marian Paroo (Ligia Cota), Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn (Alale Beheshti), and Marcellus Washburn (Robson Liu). But the truth is that everyone in the cast gave it their best.
I have been ordained as an Anglican clergyman now for 38 years. My undergraduate degree is in Social Work from UBC. While training in Social Work, I was paid by the North Vancouver Royal Bank to help ‘high-profile young people’ through the North Shore Neighbourhood House. One of the things I discovered in working at the Neighbourhood House is that teamwork was the key to break-through in the young people’s lives. Our culture is swallowed by what Dr. Don Faris calls self-regarding individualism. So often good intentions become neutralized by the ‘unholy trinity’ of ‘I, me, and myself’. In attending my son’s ‘Music Man’ performance, I was reminded of the wonderful gift of teamwork. Teamwork brings out the best in all of us. Teamwork reminds us that no one is an island.
The Bible uses the image of a body in which one of us is a foot, another an arm, another an eye. Everyone needs everyone else in order to become all that we are meant to be. The leader of my son’s BCCA Fine Arts program, Mrs. Birth, had a passion to call forth the best in every one of their students. This remarkable instructor led the way in giving and giving and giving until every student wants to also be a giver. Out of this remarkable dedication was birthed a musical/drama team that literally transformed the lives of its young people.
Suicide is the biggest killer of teens in our 21st century. Everyone needs hope for their future to keep going. Music and drama at its best can be full of hope, full of life, full of new beginnings. I thank God for teachers like Mrs. Birth who give so generously to raise up teams that actually work. Teamwork is a real solution to ‘trouble right here in River City.’
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin
-previously published in the North Shore News
-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada
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