Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Let's Put on a Show!

In the 1939 movie “Babes in Arms”, Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland immortalized the words, “Let’s put on a show!” The entertainment duo and their host of talented friends do just that, put on a show of song and dance in an old barn. I did see the movie for the first time several years ago on Turner Classic Movies. The film was dated, fun, and corny.

As a young teen, I mobilized a group of friends to do essentially the same thing __ put on a show to raise money for the Community Chest, a fund-raising effort to help support community activities. The Community Chest was the precursor to the United Way

I did not possess an innate talent for producing any kind of show. I am nothing like Mickey Rooney, except we are in the same ballpark with regard to height. I am 5 inches taller than his 5’2”. Can’t sing, dance or act. But I had a dynamo cousin, about twelve years old at the time, and she could really belt out a song. She was already doing live local television at the time.

She was the 2nd act star attraction after the opening magician act (yours truly). After my cousin, was an original, but terrible, slap-stick comedy about witches. In hindsight, I should have closed the show on an upbeat with our star belting out her songs.

We constructed an outdoor theater, sold tickets, offered popcorn, wired a record player, and opened to a capacity crowd in my backyard adjacent to the chicken coop. In all, we raised $14 and some odd change.

After the lights dimmed and the outdoor theater was dismantled, a moral dilemma began simmering. I concluded our meager donation would certainly not have a significant impact on the business of the Community Chest. My friends and I had worked so hard, maybe I should just keep the money. I fought that mental battle for several nights as I tried to sleep, tossing and turning and sweating. I had countless reasons why I was justified in keeping the money. Most obvious, I “earned” the money and should be the sole decision-maker regarding its fate. Anyway, who would know if I did not donate the money.

Back then, after much angst, I came to the right decision and donated the money. I had originally “sold” the entire event as a fund-raiser. It would be deceptive not to turn the money over to the Community Chest. At the time, the Times Leader newspaper did a nice editorial-page piece about the donation. I still think about that article whenever I approach walking over the line.

But it was years later I understood the deeper meaning. As a spouse, parent, or friend, always be a person of your word.

2 Corinthians 8:21 (paraphrased) says: “take pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of everyone else.”

Robert Parlante
January 2017

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