How might we find and choose our way on the path to the future? Two images from a recent Saturday night prompted some reflection on this question.

The first was a stage production of “The Sound of Music” performed by older children and teenagers who are part of a community Academy of Arts hosted and supported by our church for the past two and a half decades.

Three dozen actors of different races, nationalities, religious traditions and social backgrounds, plus many others in backstage and other support functions, offered this gift to those of us privileged to attend.

It was an amazing assembly of talent, nurtured by a leadership team that managed to focus that energy and skill over months of preparation to provide a flawless expression of teamwork in a presentation of the Rogers and Hammerstein classic.

The set, the vocals, the choreography and the non-musical acting all reflected the results of hard work, discipline and commitment, as well as wise and creative guidance from experienced directors with a clear vision of what the final product would be. It was cooperative teamwork on steroids.

At the final curtain, the audience was on its feet cheering the experience, not only the final product, but also the process that brought it to be.

Proud parents (tired from the rigors of rehearsals), grandparents and other community members remembered the familiar music and story, and, for a time at least, reveled in the possibility of what can be when our “better angels” are heard and heeded.

My wife and I went home encouraged by the thought of how this generation will serve when they engage the weightier issues that will become theirs in the future.

The second image greeted us on the news when we got home.

At the exact hour of the inspiring performance of these youngsters, another crowd gathered at a stage in Waco, Texas, to watch a solo performance by a different actor, whose primary talent is the ability to manage grievances and to sustain false narratives in a way that connects with the frustrations and resentments of part of our national family.

That crowd cheered, too; but they were responding to something very different from the one that was applauding the coming together of various talents in a teamwork that was focused on the mutual respect and cooperation of every member of the cast and support team.

Their applause responded to carefully chosen rhetorical lines that reinforced fears of the loss of things perceived to be the basis of their security and happiness, and a promise of protection from the menace that is perpetrating that loss.

According to the speaker, that menace is a deeply ingrained cause by “people who are not like you (read: racially, economically, educationally, religiously) who want to take away the foundations of what you value and replace them with something else that looks very different.”

The appeal of shared grievance is an effective tool for mobilizing the loyalty of those who are not part of communities of commitment to a common good and who do not acknowledge the importance of interdependent respect and cooperation toward that end.

That loyalty often becomes a tribal protectionism with narrow boundaries whose passion includes the desire to establish those boundaries on everyone else. The promise of deliverance from that menace is an effective invitation line.

One Saturday night set forth two very different images that offer lenses through which to see a future.

One is a lens that shows the benefits of diverse talents and gifts, cooperative discipline and commitments. It emphasized the positive impact of investing time and energy in providing an artistic vehicle for disclosing some of the “deeper truths” of love and courage, with an implicit invitation to let that story become ours in some way.

The other lens sees the “other” as an adversary, evolving understanding as a descent into “wokeness,” compassion for the less able as weakness, and winning as the only thing that really matters, no matter what the cost. Its invitation: “Join up, follow me, and let’s be great.”

When the two lenses are presented at the same hour on a Saturday night, it is not hard for me to see which is the better one through which to see the future.

My thanks to some ordinary but amazing young folks and their adult coaches for making that so clear.

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