Saturday, March 22, 2014

Love, Not Hate: Last Scene

Last one.  This one is based on a true story that happened in Egypt.  You can find pictures of it online.  People ARE basically good. We share the same loves, desires, and hope for the future.
Love, Not Hate

Hello.  I’m Peter Commons.  I was raised in the 90s, but I grew up on September 11, 2001.  I lived in Brooklyn and worked in New York at the World Trade Center.  Luckily I was on the 7th floor when the first plane hit.  At first we didn’t even evacuate.  We thought it was just some sort of freak accident, but it was still a work day.  Still things had to get done.  But when the second plane hit, well, we knew we had to go.  My boss, John, he stayed behind, working in the stairwell, moving up and down the floors, helping people evacuate.  I wanted to.  I really did, but I was scared.  I didn’t want to stay and help.

I mean, I was a young man, and life was good, and I just wasn’t ready to take a chance.  I did help John for about 2o minutes, but I could feel the building shaking, and I saw those brave firemen and policemen running up the stairs towards the inferno.  It just wasn’t in me.  I felt that vibration in the stairwell, and I ran.  I was scared.  I ran.

I survived.  I got out of there.  John didn’t.  The last we ever heard of him was that he helped a lady with a broken leg down fifteen flights of stairs.  She survived.  He ran back inside.  I don’t know how many people he saved that day.  He gave his life for them.  Left a wife, Mary, and two teenaged boys.  They never identified his body.

The next few years, I kept reliving it in my mind, in my nightmares.  I grew to hate all Muslims.  I saw them as the enemy.  Then, my cousin, Karen, who married an Egyptian Christian wrote me this note.

I want to share it with you: [takes out letter]

“Dear Peter, I know you have been worried about us as Egypt has really erupted in violence.  I know you have heard of the 21 Christians who were killed in that terrorist attack by the radical Islamists.  Well, Christmas Eve was the scariest night of my life.  We had been warned not to attend Mass, to stay away from the church, but we couldn't.  We couldn’t deny our savior.  We left our homes, afraid that we would never return.  That the promised attacks on us on this holy night would be the end.  That the Muslims would never let us worship or follow our beliefs.

As we approached the church, we parked several blocks away, and walked, they were there, waiting for us.  Hundreds of Muslims, in front of our church.  At first we thought they were a mob waiting to prevent us from celebrating Christmas Eve Mass.  But they weren’t.  They met us, hugged us, and told us that “if the terrorists want to kill you, they’ll have to kill us to.  They stayed there, the entire mass, waiting outside the church, acting as human shields, willing to give their lives for us.”

I read this, and it broke me.  John’s sacrifice, then these Muslims, the ones I thought were all evil, did this and possibly saved my cousin Karen and her family.  And I realized, life should never be about hate and fear, but about Love.  Love of God, and Love of Others.  I’m Peter, and my message is love.


Jimmy: Scene Six

This one is made up, but loosely based on some folks I know.  If you have ever been blessed to know someone as good as Jimmy, then you know people like this really do exist.

Hi.  I’m a nurse.  Yeah, I know, male nurse.  Go on, get the giggles outa your system.  I’m used to it.  I like being a nurse.  I like helping people.  But I was missing something.  I just wasn’t satisfied with my life.  I needed…something else.  I work at the local hospital and I usually work 60 or more hours a week.  I’ve cleaned bed pans, changed out IVs, given sponge baths, witnessed birth, and death.  I’ve seen people whose bodies were torn beyond recognition in horrible accidents, and I’ve seen people die peaceably in their sleep.  I’ve witnessed the horrors of cancer, alzheimers, you name it.

About a year ago, I was getting really jaded, you know.  The job I had loved, had become just another job.  I had hardened my heart against the pain and suffering.  I tried to be nice, you know, to joke around, smile, but I just couldn’t afford to let myself care too much. 

Then I met Jimmy. 

Jimmy was an older fella, mid to late 70s, with pure cotton top gray hair and a cherubic body with a big smile, though he was missing most of his teeth.  I met him several times in the past few months.  He was coming to the hospital for cancer treatment.  It was late stage stuff, and he gasped for every breath, but he was always smiling.  Always humming songs of worship, and he would always find people to pray with. 

What I found really amazing is that he wouldn’t ever mention his own prayers, for himself, he always prayed for others.  Even the nurses and doctors on the floor. 

The second time he came in, it was to the emergency room, his heart was beating irregularly, but even then, he never lost his composure, smiling in the pain, saying “God Bless You” to everyone who came in, and offering to pray for anyone there.  I couldn’t get that image of him praying for others, while he was being eaten up with cancer, while he was dying, he was praying for life for others.  I was blown away.

I met his granddaughter, Tyler.  She’s a lovely girl, and I fell for her quickly.  After work one night, I took her to Dairy Queen for ice cream.  I asked her about her grandfather.  Had he always been that way? 

She shook her head, “No, but he is now.”  With tears in her eyes she told me that he had been a successful businessman and real estate tycoon and had been a real sock it to them kinda guy.  But after retirement, he began to mellow.  Joined a church, etcetera.  She said that she thought he was just going through the motions, you know, to be seen being a good guy, or to pay whatever price he needed to , to have peace of mind that when he does die, that he will go to heaven and not to hell.

I nodded, and told her I got it, but she shook her head, “No, you don’t.  He really did give his life to Christ.  He changed, utterly and totally.  The past few years he worked even harder to help others, than he did when he was a businessman and real estate mogul.  The day he found out about the cancer, he went home and pulled out his old book of contacts.  He spent the next three days contacting everyone who he thought he had wronged all those years in business, anyone that he thought might have anything against him.  He didn’t tell them about the cancer.  He simply said, “I want to let you know that I’m sorry for whatever happened between us, and I’m asking for your forgiveness.”  Some hung up on him, some laughed, some accepted his apology. 

Jimmy died a month ago.  His funeral was the largest I’ve ever attended In my life.  So many people wanting to pay respects to this man.  Most said, they hadn’t even known he had cancer.  And I was struck by what the preacher said that day.  “The love we show for others, the life we lead here, reflects the love of God for us.  That we as the body of Christ, have a duty to love God, and to love others.”

I grew up a lot the day we buried Jimmy.  Now I pray everyday.  I pray for all those in my care.  I pray for the doctors and staff of the hospital, and I try to live a life that reflects the love of God.  I’m blessed for it, as Tyler has agreed to marry me and become my wife.  So whenever things look bad for you, or you find yourself in a dark place, think of Jimmy, think of his love and know that it was a mere reflection, a ripple on a pond, of the love of Christ.  Love all.

School Buddy: Scene Five

Snopes says this never happened, as it is an internet story that has been going around for a long time.  This is a reworking of the idea.
School Buddy

I’ll never forget the day Mark and I became friends.  I had seen him around school, and I knew he was different.  He always seemed sad and he was kind of a nerd.  He wore big old black plastic framed glasses, the lens like coke bottles, a shock of rarely combed hair, and he was shorter than most of the boys in our class.

I hate to admit it, but I never even tried to get to know him or even talk to him until one day in early September of our Freshman year.  Stanley, the local bully and a Senior loved giving freshmen a hard time.  Especially those who would never fight back.  Freshmen like Mark. 

Well, I had just walked into the bathroom and I saw Stanley and two other seniors had Mark backed into one of the toilet stalls.   They were picking him up and trying to put his head in the toilet.  Mark cried and begged and fought best he could.  Something broke in me, I wanted to turn and walk away, not get involved, but this wasn’t right.  I never could do that.  No body deserved to  be treated like that. 

“Stop it!”  I yelled.

“Another one!” they shouted.  One of the seniors left the pack and started towards me.  Well, he was a whole lot bigger than me, and I ain’t stupid.  I ran.  I busted outta that bathroom and screamed for help.  (Laughs), yeah, I admit it, my voice hadn’t really changed yet and I was a pretty soprano!  Well, Mr. Lamb our Principal, just happened to be near by and within minutes the Seniors were expelled and Mark and I were safe.  At least till they returned to school.

Mark couldn’t believe that I had stood up for him.  He invited me to his house that night to play video games.  I’m glad he did.  We became the very best of friends.  And we survived our Freshman year.  Mark was in band, I played football, he was on the chess club, I…wasn’t.  It didn’t matter.  People figured out real quick that when you messed with one of us, you messed with both of us.  Eventually we graduated high school.  And of course, Mark was Valedictorian.  I was…well, I wasn’t, but I graduated to.

I’ll never forget his speech that night.  He said, “When I was a freshman, my parents were getting a divorce.  I didn’t have a single friend, and I believed no one cared about me.  One day I stole my father’s .45 pistol, brought it to school.  I planned on getting through the day, then going to the band hall and killing myself.  I didn’t think I had anything to live for.  That day, some Seniors came around and started bullying me.  I even thought about pulling the gun and shooting them, but I was saved.  A boy I didn’t even know, stood up to them, and got help for me.  He became my best friend, and I am here today, because he chose to care.”  He thanked me.  Called me out in front of everyone.  I don’t remember much of that.  Too many tears in my eyes.  I didn’t deserve it, I hadn’t really done anything too special, but for Mark, it was enough.  It was enough.


A Mother's Worries: Scene Four

This one is close to me as a parent of a special needs child.  You may remember a very similar story on national news recently.
A Mother’s Worries

So I was flying on a six hour trip from Houston to Washington D.C. with my daughter, Nellie.  Nellie is only seven years old and has down syndrome.  She can be very precocious, outspoken, and has a high pitched laugh that can drive you crazy.

Anyway, we were not able to sit next to each other and my seat was in the row behind her’s.  I was on the aisle, there was a middle seat, and Nellie was sitting next to the window.  I was worried that whoever might sit next her might not be very understanding, because whoever did would have Nellie talking to them the entire flight. 

As late passengers arrived and boarded, a tall young man came on and proceeded to sit next to Nellie.  I think he was probably in his early 20s, maybe a recent college graduate or something.  He was wearing blue jeans, a New England Patriots sweater, and had white ear buds from his IPod hanging from his ears. 

Well good, I thought.  He’ll just tune her out.  As the plane began to taxi to prepare to take off, Nellie got nervous.  She looked over her shoulder at me and I could see fear in her eyes.  “It’s okay baby,” I smiled and tried to comfort her.

The man next to her pulled his right ear bud out and looked at Nellie.  “You okay?” he asked.  She shook her head, “No, I’m scared.”  He smiled, offered his hand to her.  She took it and held on to him as we thundered down the runway.

The man laughed as the plane took off, and said, “Wheee!”  causing Nellie to laugh and several of us around to join in. 

Once in the sky he could have let go of her hand.  He didn’t, he continued to hold her hand in his and listened to her talk about her Barbie collection and Sponge Bob Square Pants.  The young man apparently watched that show as well as they started singing  “I’m a goofy goober!”  Again the whole plane to laugh and enjoy their antics.

I listened as he told her he had been in Houston visiting his old college roommate, and that he was returning home to Washington.  He was a school teacher there.

They continued like this until the flight was over.  When it came time to disembark, Nellie stood up and hugged him.  He had made the trip worthwhile, just by showing that he cared.  He cared enough to talk to and laugh with a special needs child.  How many of us would ignore her, or worse?  That young man is my hero, and he will forever have my love for what he did for my daughter.


Forgiveness of the Amish: Scene Three

This one is based on a true event, that brings tears to my eyes.  Am I this good of a Christian?  Probably not.  I'd like to be.
Forgiveness of the Amish

Forgiveness.  Everyone says we must forgive.  But that’s hard for me.  I can say I forgive someone, but in my heart I don’t.  I hold grudges, I know I do.  Does this mean I’m a bad person? 

And even if I forgive, there’s no way I’ll ever forget when someone hurts me or my family.  I hear these Christians saying we are to love others.  We are to forgive them, but are they just speaking the words?  I mean is it really in anyone’s heart to forgive?

I’d say no.  I’d like to think everyone else is just as bad as I am.  That true forgiveness is not possible, unless your Jesus Christ, I mean.  For the rest of us, it just is not reality.  It’s not the world we live in.

But then I hear stories of amazing forgiveness and it blows me away.  Have you ever heard of those Amish people up north.  You know they live plainly, wear clothes from the 19th century, live without electricity, tv, radio, etc.  They drive wagons with horses to town.  Man they would drive me crazy if they lived down here.  Can you imagine driving down 21 and nearly stopping because an Amish Buggy was in the road cruising at fifteen miles per hour?  I’d be laying on the horn.  Crazy right?

Well, a few years back I saw this news story on tv.  A crazy guy with a gun entered a small Amish school house and shot and killed several children, a teacher, and then turned the gun on himself.

These Amish folks, devote people, a fundamental people, and they had every right to be angry at our world that had intruded on theirs.  One of our people had murdered their children.  I can’t even imagine what that would be like.  A parent’s worst nightmare.

But it’s what they did next that brings me back.  The parents of the murdered children, these Amish parents, they gathered food and took it to the home of the parents of the murderer.  They said, “We are not the only ones who have lost loved one’s today.  It is not their fault that their son did this, and we must forgive and move forward.” 

What?  They took food to the killer’s family!  They wanted to show forgiveness.  To show charity.  To show love.

Now, I know it is not in me to be that good of a person.  But isn’t that what true Christians are called to do.  To love and to forgive others. 

It really gets to me, you know.

Who is Hurting? Scene Two

Okay, this next one is made up.  One character on stage, one in the tech booth as the "voice."
Who is Hurting?

Character:  I wanted to get involved.  To help people.  I’m a good person.  I’m willing to help folks when they need it.   But I mean really, what difference can one person really make?

Voice from Above:  Save all mankind.

Character:  Yeah, but that was Jesus, you know God.  He wasn’t human, I mean, only half.

Voice:  WRONG!  He was fully Human, and fully Divine!

Character:  Okay, okay.  I think I remember that, but I mean no one can measure up to Jesus.  Is that what you are telling me to do?

Voice:  No, it’s not, and you are right, no one can.  That’s why he was the Savior and you are the saved.

Character:  So I am right then?

Voice:  About what?

Character:  I really can’t make a difference, not really.  One person can’t solve homelessness, fix alcoholism or other drug addictions.  I’m right.

Voice:  You think so?

Character:  Yep.  I do.  I mean  I do care, but I don’t really have time to get  involved and anything I do won’t make a difference anyway.

Voice:  Have you ever heard the story of the little girl and the 1000s of beached starfish.

Character:  Can’t say that I have.

Voice:  A little girl was on the beach one morning surrounded by thousands  of beached starfish.  As the sun was coming up the starfish were slowly dying.  The girl would bend over, carefully pick one up, and throw it as far as she could into the water.  Then she would do it again.  A man came by and asked her what she was doing.  She replied, “I’m saving the starfish.”  The man shook his head and said, “You can’t save them all, you should just leave them alone.  It doesn’t really make a difference you know.”  The little girl looked at the man, picked up another starfish, threw it into the sea, then answered, “It made a big difference to that one.”  The man thought about it, and joined the little girl,  saving as many of the starfish as they could.


Character:  Okay, I get ya.  It matters to those that are helped.  But I still don’t have time to really do anything. 

Voice:  You want a reward?

Character:  I dunno about that.  I guess if I’m giving my money or my time I should at least be recognized for what I did.


Character:  Hello?....Hello?  Are you there?

Voice:  Yes.

Character:  Why did you bug out like that?

Voice:  I thought maybe your big head on stage was enough.  Might get crowded.

Character laughs:  Right. 

Voice:  Why do we do good things for others?

Character:  I dunno.

Voice:  We do good deeds not to be Christian, but because we are Christians.

Character:  Well, that’s pretty high falootin’ of ya.

Voice: Not really.  Jesus said “Be a servant to all.”

Character:  “But how?”

Voice:  Visit those who are sick in the hospital, those in prison, widowers, work with orphans, give food to hungry, water to the thirsty, clothes to the needy.

Character:  Sounds like socialism.

Voice:  No.  It sounds like love.

Character:  Okay, I get the sick, widows and orphans, but those guys in prison are scary. 

Voice:  God does not judge a man until he is dead.  So why should you?  You are called to be a witness, not a lawyer or a judge.

Character:  Laughs.  Alright.  I get it.  I’m gonna do better.  I’m gonna stand on the promises of God.

Voice:  Maker sure your standing and not just sitting on them!

Character turns to leave, then : “Hey.  I’ll do my best, but what if it isn’t good enough?

Voice:  It’s okay.  God doesn’t grade on a curve, he grades on a Cross.

Sharing Stuff

I was asked to pick a play for the Burleson Theater Arts Guild, but it turned out they had picked Easter Weekend for it, and it was given to me about 1.5 months out.  We agreed to make it an Easter Themed play without being too "preachy" or "testimonial."  Everything I found was written for Junior high actors and I just wasn't pleased by it.  So I decided to write some dramatic/comedic scenes based on real life goodness, was planning on having a normal dinner theater, and having a live band playing ten or so songs (a mix of contemporary Christian and good old Rock and Roll).  At our last meeting we all agreed we just didn't have enough time to pull it off, but I thought I'd share my writings here.

Most of these are based on real life events with a focus on Love God, Love Others. The opening was just me having fun.

Anyways, here goes, enjoy....

(Actor comes into the audience, band on stage, lights up, spot on actor)

Welcome to our Easter Saturday Night of fellowship, music, and theater.

We welcome everyone, and any denomination (we accept 1s, 5s, 10s, 20s, heck even a 100 if you are so inclined).

I been studying the Bible and I’m amazed at all the characters.  I mean there are some real characters in there. 

I mean start with Adam, before Eve showed up, I think his theme song went (One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.) *Band picks up and sings)

And poor Eve…she didn’t have much choice, she was really stuck with Adam.  If you were the only man on earth….heh…well, here I am!  I think her theme song would be “Stuck in the Middle with You.”

But together Adam and Eve, They were really a pair.  I mean together they invented the greatest of foods and have their own song “Cheeseburger in Paradise.”

And then there was Noah…I think I know the perfect theme song for him, “Raindrops keep falling on my head.”

Esau, man he was a mess.  I think he was (Born to be wild).

Samson, you remember he had the hair that made him super strong.  I got his song too, “(Hair!)

Daniel’s would be (The Lion sleeps tonight).

Methusalah…oldest man ever right.  He was just (Staying alive, Staying Alive).

And finally there was Joshua singing (Good Vibrations)

Thank you for coming and enjoy the show!