Monday, October 31, 2011

Watching the Credits


Larry and I took in a movie this week.  It's called  "Courageous," and it was produced  by the good people of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia.  They've done some pretty ambitious projects including "Facing the Giants" and "Fireproof."  They've obviously got some very talented people on staff there, people like brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick who write the screen plays, get the movies made and then somehow manage to get them distributed all over the United States.  Amazing what a couple of guys can do, huh?

After the movie was over, Larry and I remained seated and watched the credits roll until the end. I'll admit, those were some of the most interesting I've ever seen.  I think everybody that lives in or has ever visited Albany, Georgia was listed including Jim Bob and Michele Duggar and their nineteen kids.  I'm not sure what they did, but they're there.  And I think everyone that brought in a nice home-cooked meal got their names on the big screen including  most of the Sunday school classes at Sherwood Baptist Church.  But the best part came towards the end when the dozens of  baby sitters who helped watch kids during those long, grueling months of film-making are recognized as well, a few seconds of film devoted just to them.      
 
There was a time I wouldn't have bothered with the credits.  They seem to take forever, and I thought it totally unnecessary to include all those hundreds of names.  Then in 2003 some big-time movie people decided to make a movie in our part of Alabama and put out a call for people who might like to be a part of it all.  I sent in my resume along with a picture and they called me within a week or so.  A few days later I drove to Montgomery to be fitted for my costume and get my assignment.  I would be filming for three days on a cotton farm about a forty-five minute drive from my house.  My only instructions were to wash my hair each night, set it in sponge rollers while it was still wet, sleep in them and wear them to the site.  Oh, and I was not to put on any makeup.          

It was still dark when I arrived at the farm that first morning.  There were signs pointing to the parking areas, and after I locked up my van, a shuttle took me and several others to a large tent set up in the middle of a cotton field.  We were encouraged to help ourselves to a nice breakfast that had been set out and after that proceeded to another tent for makeup and then on to another for our costumes.

Turns out I was hired as a background actor, my official title.  Okay,  I know I spoke no lines, was hired merely to fill in the landscape and got minimum wage.  But I must admit it made me feel good to have the word "actor" in my job description, especially as I stood on that Alabama river bank for three days in February in nothing but a skirt and a blouse and a blazer.  Those who live elsewhere assume that Alabama can't possibly get all that cold, even in the dead of winter.   Well, they're wrong.  It can and it was.  I was freezing as were all the others who stood in costume on the bank of the Coosa. I shouldn't complain, at least I had long sleeves to protect me a bit from the wind cutting across that river.  I could have been one of the girls dressed in a strapless prom dress or a circus entertainer dressed in a leotard.  If it wasn't for those running out with blankets and setting up propane heaters between takes, I think we would have stood frozen in place until Spring came to thaw us out.

I came away from that experience with an appreciation for those who were working so hard behind the scenes, and in this particular movie, there were hundreds of them.  I would arrive at the set before daybreak, but the extras' coordinator and her helpers had  been checking people in as early as 4 a.m.  One crew had been preparing breakfast,  others were driving the shuttles back and forth, several were doing makeup and hair and getting everyone into costume while others were setting up for the day's shoots.  And who knows how late they had been working into the night, many surviving on just a few hours of sleep.   During the filming, as soon as the action stopped and cameras were being repositioned, people would suddenly appear with those blankets and heaters I mentioned while others would move quickly up and down the hill rearranging hair and checking makeup.  Then, just as quickly, everyone and everything would quickly disappear as the director began the count once again and called for the action to begin.

If you asked me the name of the film, who directed and what actors starred in it, I could spout their names off quickly.  But beyond that I can't tell you the name of the woman who cast me or who did my hair or helped fit me for my costume or wrapped me in a blanket during the coldest of those three days.  I no  longer remember them or even what they looked like.  They were simply people working behind the scenes, doing their jobs.

The movie did real well by the way.  It was even up for a couple of Academy Awards.  But don't look for my name in the credits.  Not everybody thinks like those people at the Sherwood Baptist Church.  Actually, don't look for the names of any of the background actors.  We all knew that was just a fancy name for what we really were anyways, extras.  But the others, those working  behind scenes, doing their part to take a  story and visualize it for us,  their names are there.  And that's as it should be.  That's why I don't complain about those names that run after the movie has finished telling its story.

A few years later, I got a phone call one night from one of the guys in our church in South Carolina.  "Marcy, is it true that you were in that movie 'Big Fish?'" he asked.  I told him it was true.  "I want you to know," he said.  "A few years ago I was at the end of my rope.  My life was going nowhere.  I was into drugs and alcohol big time, so I checked myself into a motel.  I turned the TV on and that movie was playing."   He paused for a moment.  "You know about my dad and all, how he died in prison for killing my mom.  I held a lot of anger and bitterness towards him."  He took a breath.  "By the time the movie was over I was bawling.  That story helped me to get some stuff resolved where my dad was concerned.  Just wanted you to know."

Larry's talking about seeing  "Courageous" a second time.  I'm not sure yet if I'm going or not, but I'm tempted.  It's a good story and hopefully might help change some lives for the better.  And if I do, I think I just might hang around for a few minutes at the end.  I wouldn't mind watching the credits again.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sixty

I'm still working through this thing called getting older.  I know, nowadays sixty is still considered relatively young, especially when you have so many living well into their eighties and nineties.  Still, the realization that I'm here at this juncture has me reflecting a bit more than usual on what I've done thus far and what it is exactly that I'd still like to accomplish during this latest chapter of my life.  I think it's easier to explain where I want to go if I reflect on where I've come from.  So what better place to start than near the beginning.
Kindergarten--I'm standing, second from right
I'll never forget Mrs. Slocum's kindergarten class or how shy I was,  too afraid to ask questions or speak what was on my mind.  I recall the crush I had on the cutest boy there,  but because some little red-headed, freckle-faced girl boldly announced to everyone that she liked the same boy,  he agreed that he would indeed be her boyfriend.  I still remember wishing that I'd had the same kind of courage that she did.  If so, perhaps he would have been my boyfriend instead of hers.  Actually, probably not.  But that little episode in my five-year-old life reminds me that I don't want to live in fear of what others might think.  I want to speak and live out my life with courage and confidence.    

Secondly, I don't want to get too comfortable in my little corner of  the world.  Our kindergarten classroom sat next door to Miss Smith's first-grade class.  I still have these few seconds of recall where I'm passing those first-graders in the hallway and feeling a sense of awe at their size, their maturity. I couldn't wait to get there.  As a five-year-old, I only saw what was close to me and anticipated only that which was directly ahead.  My world was pretty small back then and consisted of my family, a few neighborhood friends, my church and Mrs. Slocum's kindergarten class. As I became older, it got bigger of course.  Going to college a thousand miles from home, pastoring churches around the country, learning to speak Spanish and living in a third-world country, these challenging, and yet wonderful experiences grew me and enlarged my world.  I'll be honest, there's still a little part of me that wants to sit back and surround myself with things that are familiar, comfortable.  But how easy it would be to become complacent, just coasting along for the rest of my life and missing those wonderful adventures that God still has planned for me.     

The school bus dropping me off with my brother Rex  
Third, I don't want to be afraid of the "what ifs."  One day not too long after I started school,  I was sitting in the back seat of the bus heading home when I suddenly realized that the bus was completely empty except for me and the driver.  I ran down the aisle and tearfully told him that I had forgotten to get off with the others. He scolded me, told me to pay better attention and opening the door, let me off.  Fortunately he hadn't gone very far, but for weeks afterwards I was overwhelmed by the fear that I would forget to get off that bus. Even when I wasn't on the bus, I thought about what might happen if I should forget again.   I think back to how much time I wasted anticipating and fearing something that never happened.   I'm a grownup now, but I know how easy it is to fall into the worry trap, expecting the sky to fall at any moment.  I don't want to live there.

Fourth, I don't want the fear of failure to keep me from taking risks.  When I turned sixteen,  I was afraid every time I got behind the wheel of a car and froze when it was time to take my driving test.  I failed of course.   A year or so later I tried again.  And failed again.  I would take the test four times before I could finally stop renewing my permit and get a license.  When we moved to Honduras, I had to learn to drive stick on a Toyota double-cab truck if I wanted to get anywhere. The narrow roads, the absence of traffic lights, the myriad of buses and cabs and horse-drawn carts and bicycles weaving in and out of traffic absolutely terrified me. But Larry was patient, taking me out on Sunday afternoons, allowing me to practice shifting when the traffic wasn't so heavy.  Finally the day came when he had to leave for a two-week trip to Jamaica, and suddenly it was up to me to get our kids to school across town everyday.  I did it, and soon I was weaving in and out of traffic along with the rest of them.  Those past challenges  remind me that I don't want to come to the end of my life filled with regret because of the things I wanted to do but didn't because I was too afraid to go after them.  

Angela, Fawn and Joel in the back of the Toyota
Finally, I don't want to stop dreaming.  I want to believe that God still has great things in mind for me, but I won't discover what those things are if I don't keep moving forward.  To do that I have to take to heart the other goals I've set for myself:  to live my life courageously and with confidence,  to get out of my comfort zone, to quit worrying about the "what ifs" and take some risks.  Those things don't come natural for me as I am by nature a bit of a coward.  But with God's help, I can do and be all that He has placed within me.  After all, I left kindergarten a long time ago.