Early Spring 2009 - Building Character While Playing Characters
My 11-year-old son was in a play last week. For years, friends had been telling me what a great experience this theater program was and how much their kids enjoyed participating in it. I’m not sure why, but in my mind I pictured spoiled child stars, overly-doting parents, and cramming rehearsals into an already packed schedule. In short, I could not see much positive coming from the whole experience.
Imagine my surprise when I found myself talking with the program’s director at a neighborhood park one day. He explained that the emphasis in the productions was not on the singing and dancing or who was the star of the show, but on responsibility, character, and leadership. Now I started getting interested! Not that I don’t value singing and dancing, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s the real life lessons that I value most.
So Ben auditioned for the play and made it. The weeks just flew by until it was time for the scheduled performances. The kids were busy, and the parents were even busier since it was an all-volunteer production. On the final night before the last performance, I found myself sitting in a room with all of the performers while the director gave them suggestions. After having seen the play from lots of different angles—as a parent, from backstage, from the audience —I expected to hear him tell them not to miss a certain cue, to sing out more during this scene, or something of this sort.
Instead, what he said has stayed with me a long time, and in fact, I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. He said he didn’t care if people came up to him and commented on what great singers or performers they were; he was used to hearing that. What he really hoped—and what he valued most— was that people said what great young people they were becoming; that the children said a heartfelt thank you to those who searched them out after a performance; that they cheered each other on; and, in short, that they were becoming people of great character.
As I sat there, surrounded by these young kids, my eyes welled up and I could hardly believe my good fortune. This is what I genuinely wanted for my son—what we all want for our children. We hope that what they are involved in builds their character so they ultimately become good people, even perhaps leaders in some way or another. We want them to support each other, no matter how big or small their parts are in this production we call life, and we want them to thank those who have helped them.
And so I send a big thank you out to all of those who help shape my children—the unsung heroes, the teachers, the coaches, the directors, and more, who spend so much of their own time and make a profound impact on our boys and girls who grow into young men and women of great character.