I have two friends who had a dream. They wanted to tell stories that matter. This dream sounds simple, but it was a dream, and so it was hard. Because it was a dream, many people believed it couldn’t happen.
I don’t know if they ever thought that too. But because they dream in stories and they know that stories are important, they worked hard and they started a theatre company. That sounds easy, but it involved money from their bank accounts, and painting ceilings black, and casting their friends, and walking all over town hanging up posters. They had to ask for help. A lot. That is really hard to do. And I’m sure sometimes they were scared and sometimes they thought this might be a bad idea. But they did it anyway.
They are brave.
Most people are too afraid to follow their passions. Because failing would break their hearts and they’re not sure they could ever mend again. So they never try. And the saddest thing is that they will never know the joy of what could have been.
My friends’ first ever show that belonged just to them opened last Thursday night. They wrote it and staged it. It tells the stories of seven ordinary people.
By ordinary people, I actually mean just regular old ordinary people who live in the small city of Newberg, OR. They weren’t chosen because they’ve done anything exciting – they were chosen because they call Newberg their home. And my friends wanted to tell the stories of Newberg.
Newberg is a college town, a dry campus in the middle of wine country. It is proud of its history, but the population is also very transient. There is great disparity between the richness of a five-star resort and the muddy fields filled with migrant workers and the treatment center that boasts celebrities hiding away from life.
These seven people have lived in Newberg for a while. Three speak Spanish, four speak English. One lives with autism. One is a teacher. Another owns a restaurant. Two came over illegally. And one died only a few weeks after being interviewed.
These seven people were extremely brave.
They told the stories of their lives. They are all normal people who live and work in a small town, feed their families from the local grocery store, go to movies at the old movie theatre. But they have the most intricate and beautiful stories.
Very few people think their own stories are beautiful. Boring, yes. Quiet. Maybe occasionally interesting. But rarely beautiful.
But there is beauty in the simplicity. And there is beauty in the act of bravery, of saying, “I will tell you my story because maybe you need to hear it.”
In being brave enough to share their stories, their stories were given such exquisite significance. They were made into art; they were made into meaning. They were given a beginning, a middle, an end – even as it continues forward. They were given life.
Those seven real-life people put their own lives onstage for others to see. The pain and anguish of reality, the pleasures of living – it was all there.
And we, the audience, were amazed. We learned we don’t know our own neighbors. In our rush to update our Facebook statuses, to share photos of our food via Twitter, to be somehow known, we are losing the dearest part of human existence: engaging in someone else’s life. Touching it, hearing it in ways that are more than 140 characters, that allow deep connection.
Because that requires bravery.
And my culture is not – I am not – brave.
Can we change this? Can we share our lives with those around us? Can we ask people about their stories? Can we ask someone about her dreams? And then answer truthfully when asked those questions back?
It requires something that we’re not used to: hard work. Challenge. And it requires pain and tears and just the slightest possibility of true, pure, untarnished joy.
Let’s be brave together, you and me.
See the Show!
Walk a Mile: Stories of Newberg
Thursday-Saturday, September 22-24 at 7:30 pm. Sunday matinee September 25 at 2 pm.