Saturday night my family and I had reserved seats down front, center stage, for the Starr’s Mill High School Drama Department’s production of “The Wizard of Oz.” While the wonderful set and many of the delightful costumes echoed popular Steam Punk designs, the production was true to the children’s classic by L. Frank Baum. As I enjoyed the play, the live orchestra, and the enchanting choreography, I was struck by the universal themes that were so obvious to me for perhaps the first time. Admittedly, not a favorite of mine over the years, I may have changed my mind, for I fell in love with the Scarecrow who wanted a brain so badly, with the Tin Man who dreamed of having a heart so that he could experience love, and even better understood the Lion in his search for courage. And I realized that the lessons learned on Dorothy’s journey are the same lessons we hope to teach our children and grandchildren.
One: That the world does not really “owe” you anything. You must earn what is most dear and most desired by you.
Two: That the journey to find those things which we long for: recognition, honor, prestige, Love—will only come to us after some long and arduous trials where we must face our fears as did Dorothy and her friends.
Three: That the trip that is your life is much easier and more meaningful, if, along the way, you have family and friends who care deeply for you.
Four: I just realized that there is a fourth element in this story and in life: Toto. There should always be someone or something that we hold so dear that we will go to any lengths to protect it. Life. Liberty. The pursuit of Happiness? Family, for sure.
It is there among those who have always loved us, who have honored family rituals and who have prayed for one another throughout the trials that are part of life, who have held a cool cloth to our forehead, wiped the tears from our cheeks, put a Band-Aid on our hurts, and have held us close when we thought we would die from embarrassment or because a friend had betrayed us; truly, there is “no place like home” with those who love us, unconditionally.
Harry Browne, a businessman and perhaps something of a cynic, wrote a letter to his daughter that has become a popular treatise on life and how to approach it. I have excerpted small sections here. He tells his daughter that “No one owes you anything.”
You owe it to yourself to be the best person possible. Because if you are, others will want to be with you, will want to provide you with the things you want in exchange for what you’re giving to them. Some people will choose not to be with you for reasons that have nothing to do with you. When that happens, look elsewhere for the relationships you want.
Once you learn that you must earn the love and respect of others, you’ll never expect the impossible and you won’t be disappointed. Others don’t have to share their property with you, nor their feelings or thoughts. If they do, it’s because you’ve earned these things. And you have every reason to be proud of the love you receive, of your friends’ respect. But don’t ever take them for granted….They’re not yours by right; you must always earn them.”
Pretty tough stuff to hear if you are still young and believe that, indeed the world does owe you everything: an education, a good living, a fine home, a perfect mate, healthy children, friends… Sadly, this is a belief that many youngsters, young adults, and most in The Millennial Generation hold as Truth.
Today that generation labeled The Millennials and even those younger are characterized as having one common trait. They are impatient. For everything. They are addicted to their cell phones. Never before have we relied on such brief notes, on an argot shorthand, on hasty photos and cryptic symbols delivered faster than the speed of sound to communicate our thoughts and feelings, our approval and disapproval. And, tragically, our Love and our Hate—which are too often communicated to the whole world. They rely on these devices almost solely for the news of the world. They have been taught that “celebrity” is the key to greatness, that the number of “likes” means success, and not what one has done for others, but how one has positioned oneself and sold oneself to the world.
While Mr. Browne suggests that “No one owes me moral conduct, respect, friendship, love, courtesy, or intelligence,” I disagree! I believe we do owe one another those things, and we better put our trust in people who want to share the same things that we believe in. Things like honor and allegiance to friends and family members, Christian principles, ethics and values taught to us by our parents or by the lives of historical figures who have gained our respect and the respect of many. People like Mother Theresa, George Washington, Robert E. Lee, Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King.
What they all have in common, and can teach generations of those willing to study and learn, is compassion! It is the single most important trait that I wish to give to my grandchildren; and if I had a magic wand like Glenda “The Good Witch,” I would wave it over this nation, for I believe that Compassion and Understanding for others can make all things right. Let us then move ahead, hand in hand, fearless—with a brave spirit, a level head, and most of all, with a caring heart—loving and honoring one another.
Congratulations to my beautiful granddaughter Erin for her performance in the musical, and to all the wonderful students and teachers at Starr’s Mill who made it a magical evening.