Actor Daniel Craig, of James Bond fame, is quoted as having once said, “Good scripts are hard to find.” Without any permission from this talented leading man, I have been infamously known to occasionally say something along the lines of, “You know, in much of life, we don’t always get a script.”
One year at Ridge Elementary, my grade school growing up, teachers made the dramatic decision to put on a production of “The Nutcracker.” No formal script was ever presented to me, a first grader, though I was cast in the role of the villainous Mouse King. Adorned in gray leotards — all the other mice wore gray pants — my theatrical debut involved me simply running across the stage only to be quickly downed by the heroin Marie and her most-lethal slipper. The reviews were mixed, but at least I followed the script.
Some years later, eighth grade to be exact, I was to perform about a quarter-hour of memorized piano music for the dreaded annual recital. The three pieces were from composers whose last names I had trouble pronouncing, let alone spell. Given my procrastinating practice habits, I was ill-prepared when my turn came to “tickle the ivories” before this austere audience.
Midway through my less-than-virtuoso recitation, the piano went abruptly silent. Traumatized and with palms sweating profusely, I desperately searched for notes on the illusive measures imprinted in my mind’s eyes. The musical score went agonizingly blank.
Humbled, I somehow stumbled my way through and shuffled back to my seat where little solace was found. My anticipated retirement from taking lessons would be postponed for another year, declared my mother. This, she offered, would give me a chance to avenge my failure to spend enough time studying the script, or sheet music to be more precise.
In my third year of college, as the Holy Spirit of God would have it, my life and faith got powerfully rearranged as I came into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. On that night, unbeknownst to me, I had been given a new script to follow. It came in the form of a large book which to this day continues to shape anew my existence. Most know it as the Bible.
Some months following the birth of our first child and without warning, my wife and I noticed a strange and erratic movement coming from our young daughter. After multiple medical appointments, we came to discover she had a rare and debilitating myoclonic seizure disorder. As first-time parents, we scrambled desperately for some remedy. Through the wonder and wisdom of many, and a five-year journey, we found and followed a new script given to us by gifted therapists in the arena of development disabilities.
Among us are those who read the instruction manual cover to cover, whether they need to or not. Similarly, there are those who may venture out on their own opening the book only if they get caught in a bind.
Assembling a new grill some years back, I diligently read and reread the pages of directives and followed them to a T. Who wants a propane gas explosion on the patio over burgers and brats?
With other projects, I’d cavalierly strike out on my own, and if unsuccessful, see what the folks on YouTube had to say. Offerings of variable scripts abound.
Backing my car out of the garage the other day, I came to a stop in the driveway with the car still in reverse. Glancing at the passenger side-view mirror, I noticed it was off-kilter. Using the remote, I repositioned the mirror, but each time the mirror reverted back as before. “What the heck,” I thought to myself. After the fifth time, I finally busted out the behemoth owner’s manual and spent the next half hour trying to find if there was a remedy. There, buried on page 624, I learned that when backing up the mirror automatically increases its angle to help the driver see better, and then, when placed in drive, it returns to the original setting. Silly me, I should have read through the entire script when I bought the car, I mean, manual.
One never knows when it sadly happens, but in the past two weeks, I’ve been asked to officiate at the “premature” deaths of two young and beloved sons. Both deaths were heartbreaking in their own ways. One was too young and in his 30s. The other was also too young and died in his mother’s womb at about 14 weeks.
To be sure, there is no nice and neat script any of us could offer to thoroughly guide them through the precariously intense grief of such sudden and unanticipated loss.
Perhaps it is because of all of this and more, in my own life and that of others, that I attempt to “err of the side of grace” when it comes to possessing, examining and following any script. We know that this pandemic of ours has brought some periodic ridicule, accusation, angst and at times outright rage toward leadership responsible for following some unequivocal script of how to get through this.
Personally, I’m not convinced such a coveted, timely and all-encompassing script has ever existed to precisely walk us through these unprecedented times of COVID-19 in the first place. To some degree, I guess I’m OK with that, too.
Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org