Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, and suddenly, you are doing the impossible.
— Saint Francis of Assisi
On Sunday afternoon, our family went to see Pippin performed at the American Reparatory Theater in Cambridge. My kind of diversity filled the lobby: students, seniors, adults and groups of well-educated teens. The assortment of torn jeans, worn shoes, grey hair and no makeup might indicate that this crowd was strapped for cash, but tickets were not inexpensive. This fits me. I admit that money supports the lifestyle I enjoy, while I don’t want to look like I actually spend it.
I imagined a background story for many of the folks – retired professor, artist, group of teenagers without a worry in the world – all characteristics of people I like to be around. I used to feel like I could hold my own with at least some of the intellectuals, but my brain doesn’t work the way it used to. My thinking is not as quick, and I’m not well-versed in current, world or business events. I miss a lot of the subtleties in conversations. Still, I am happy to be in their general company and feel like part of that particular group.
We were soon in our seats, behind a section of hearing-impaired individuals. They animatedly conversed before the show, and once the show began, two interpreters stood in front of them to translate the words from the stage.
The stage was filled with circus acrobatics, more than I could watch at one time. I could take in an overview of the stage, but then would miss particulars. Or I could enjoy the details contributed by some of the performers, like the man walking up the stairs on his hands or the quick flips done in pairs, but then miss other details and definitely miss the big picture. Plus, I kept getting distracted by the interpreters. Not only were they interpreting the show with their hands, they were acting it out in their facial expressions and body language, creating a show unto themselves! When I focused on them, though, I missed the flow of action on the stage.
I wondered about the folks who relied on the interpreters. Could they take in both the interpreters and the stage action at the same time? Did they miss alot of the stage performance and the nuances there? Did they realize they were missing something?
I myself don’t even realize that I am missing something until someone points it out to me. Even then, I have this moment of doubt, as if it couldn’t have happened if I didn’t actually see it.
I do know this: My assumptions about others are notoriously inaccurate. I can assume that someone had it easy and later learn that they worked hard to achieve what they have. Someone who appears to be without a care in the world actually turns out to be carrying larger burdens than I can imagine. I can neglect to notice the kind heart underneath the brusque facade. So of course, I miss something all the time.
Maybe that is a sign of a rich life with much going on. Maybe it is a sign of a slow thinker. Maybe I make bad assumptions. Or maybe that is just the way it is.
Whether I am looking at the big picture or the details, I’m so glad that you let me hang out with you and to be part of your show! While I promise to do my best to notice the important details in your life, I’m sure, as I did watching Pippin, I will miss something. It isn’t for lack of caring. I sometimes need an interpreter and appreciate it when you point out things that I might miss.
For those who needed the interpreters, for me, and for anyone else feeling like they are paying attention to all that they can, maybe we are doing what is necessary. Maybe we are even what is possible. And when someday we find ourselves doing the impossible, I know we will enjoy the flight!