Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Reflections on the Times

In December, I had the pleasure of attending "White Christmas The Musical" produced at the Lyric Arts Main Street Stage in Anoka, Minnesota.  This is a stage rendition of a movie that was popular in the 1950's.  Those of you of a "certain age," know the one I mean .. Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney; a train trip to Vermont; folks get snowed in, but  that doesn't stop he troops from showing up to honor the general they served under during the war.  Irving Berlin wrote the music, which included the eponymous "White Christmas" (always my Dad's Christmas favorite), "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep," and one of my favorites, "I Love a Piano."  

I was enchanted with the Directors' Notes written in the program.  Rebecca Rizzio directed the play and wrote the notes. She is a very talented young woman, so I was surprised to find her notes providing a very adept summary of the highlights of the last 50 years, in context with counting our blessings.  I love sharing good writing with you, so I requested and received permission from Rebecca and Lyric Arts to reproduce them here in their entirety.  Her words, which seemed to reflect the experiences of my lifetime in just a few short paragraphs, grabbed my soul.

I hope they resonate with you as they did with me.  By the way, if you live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and you haven't caught a production at the Lyric Arts Theater, you might want to check out their upcoming productions (plays AND live music concerts) listed on their website.

Also, in today's edition of the Minneapolis Tribune is a great article on the theater and its venturing into the live music venue.  As one patron commented, "Thank you so much for giving us a place (in the northern suburbs) to see live music." 

And, now, Rebecca Rizio's thoughts on counting our blessings.

"As we find ourselves in the uncertainty of 2011, it is perhaps easy to forget that we live in never-ending uncertainty. The Great Depression.  The unrest of the 1960's.  The Cold War. Vietnam.  And, World War II, during which Irving Berlin wrote the immediately-identifiable song, 'White Christmas.'
 "It has been nearly 60 years since America first heard that song. Since then, we have watched Elvis and the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show.  We have witnessed the assassination of one president and the resignation of another.  We celebrated the birth of Little Ricky and mourned the passing of Lucy.  We have built homes with Habitat for Humanity and have seen them tragically destroyed by Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina.  We watched Michael J. Fox go from high school Republican, to time traveler, to advocate.  We experienced a miracle on ice and a disaster on Wall Street  We became Tweeters; we became green.  We spent our mornings with Katie and Matt and our late nights with Johnny and Uncle Miltie.  We have sent forth our troops and welcomed them back home.  We have been rocked by disease and inspired by those who fight it.  We watched as Neil Armstrong took his first step and as Christa McAuliffe took her last breath.  We saw terror rise; we saw towers fall. 
"Throughout it all, we live our lives - searching for our purpose, our place. Never knowing truly when or if we find it.  Never completely understanding our impact.  Mostly oblivious to our blessings but sometimes very aware of them.  Tonight, Irving Berlin asks us to count them.  Little is certain.  But the one thing that is certain is this moment, this blessing.  So, take it.  And, may it be merry and bright ...."
Thank you, Rebecca.  Your words are a blessing.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Support Your Local Library

I volunteer at my local library one afternoon a week.  I am the "computer person." I assist people who might need help on the computers that are available for free use at our library. When I'm not helping people, I shelve returned books and DVDs, find "requested" books for patrons, and fill my own arms with books and movies to take home and enjoy. When I was young, I "played" librarian. The local library, with its wooden floors, quiet spaces, and wonderful smells (books smell better than bacon in my world!), was a place in which I spent a lot of time.  Back then, I just assumed that libraries would be a part of my life forever!  But now I'm beginning to wonder.

Libraries are in trouble.  Kids and adults alike are home playing video games, or reading books on electronic devices.  They even are buying music off the internet. Do they realize their library has hundreds of CDs that are available for the downloading  FREE!  Reading as a pastime seems to be waning.  And the library as a destination is quickly becoming almost as archaic as people subscribing to a daily newspaper (a topic for another day!).  

The books, magazines, newspapers, movies, CDs, computers with internet access, and other items of interest available at your local library are still there .. but people seem to be too busy to come and check it all out.  Most of these services and products are FREE, but even that doesn't seem to provide enough incentive.  

Many Fridays it is quiet here in our little branch.  People come and go and use the computers ... filling out job applications, checking their Facebook page, playing video games, etc.  At the end of December, lots of young parents brought their kids in to get books and movies ... you could tell it was almost time for that Christmas vacation to end!  But there aren't droves of people.  Recently, there was a cut in the hours and days the library is open.  It's now open only one night a week. When my kids were young, it was open almost every night except Saturday and Sundays.  Money is short in local government budgets and libraries seem to be an easy target.

It makes me sad to think that there is a future out there in which libraries might not be around.  We will all be locked into spending money to buy anything we want to read.  There will be nowhere to go for free research for that school term paper, nowhere to find a free copy of Consumer Reports and check out the pros and cons of new refrigerators, nowhere for kids to page through oversized picture books or listen to the "library lady" read to them from the latest Harry Potter during Storybook Hour, nowhere for Dad to go to read the latest issue of Sports Illustrated without having to subscribe to it, nowhere for Mom to go to check out the latest issue of House Beautiful and dream of remodeling her kitchen someday, and definitely nowhere to go that smells better than bacon.

Today I noticed a sign on the library wall.  I think it says it all:
Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.
When was the last time you visited YOUR local library?  We're here, waiting for you.