The show must (and did) go on

Taking a 4-year-old to a high school play, or any activity over an hour, takes a little bit of planning.

On top of knowing where the closest restrooms are located, you have to be ready for just about anything from a sudden illness to random tears.

On this particular day, though, Addy was feeling great and on some of her best behavior. Of course, it was Valentine’s Day.

After a scrumptious dinner at Summit Grill, the girl and I headed to Lee’s Summit West High School to catch the musical “Cinderella.” It wasn’t Addy’s first time at a theater performance, having seen her old man in a cameo role at “Godspell” last fall.

We arrived to a packed house in the West theater and found a few seats near the back where Addy had a good line of sight to the stage. The house lights when down, the curtain separated away and Addy giggled with excitement as the production began.

As the carriage whisked away Cinderella (played by West senior Jasmin Robinson, her first lead role, where she was simply amazing), Addy and I made a mad dash to beat the intermission-crowd to the restroom.

Turns out, we shouldn’t have been in a hurry.

Little did we know that, at some point, some of the high school orchestra got stuck in the elevator. After a few minutes turned into 20 or more, Addy started to get impatient.

We had restroom trip checked off. Bottled water handy. Snacks close by. But I hadn’t planned for “orchestra in the elevator” delays with her.

As we chatted about what she enjoyed about the first act, I explained that “Cinderella” had a real name and it was “Jasmin.” I shouldn’t have even walked down that road, because the kiddo was really confused about that. Thankfully, the booming voice from the sky saved me with an announcement that there was a minor technical difficulty (although I am sure he had a different phrase for it) and that the production would be resuming shortly. A few minutes later, we learned Act II would be resuming sans a few members of the orchestra.

I almost lost Addy during the delay. A few members of the audience had already shuffled out and it was getting late. Thankfully, the house lights went down and we got rolling again. And I am thrilled we stayed.

The players at West didn’t let the adversity shake them a bit. If it did, they didn’t show it one bit.

When they came out to take a bow, Addy was clapping and cheering like she had just seen the biggest production of her life.

And you know, she probably just had.

Bravo to theater director Brad Rackers and the West Side Stage players. The show had to go on and they made sure everyone had a special Valentine’s evening.

How do we make a difference?

Many people want the complete community experience where they live.

Safety. Recreation. Education. Art. Eating. Entertainment. Opportunity.

Author Richard Florida contends in his book, “Who’s Your City?” that where we choose to live is as important a decision as who we choose to spend our life with and what we choose to do for a living.

While I have friends all across our fruited plain, for this example I will focus on Lee’s Summit.

Why do we live here? Are we happy here? If not, what are we doing to improve our community?

Some join a social club. Others give back through service. Our greatest gifts are likely as simple as our gift of time. We know that talk is cheap. Actions show our resolve to help, assist and give back. If it’s at a thrift store, an elementary school or a nonprofit organization, we make a difference simply by showing up.

In Lee’s Summit, it really is just that easy.

A small, and sometimes vocal, minority like to bat around terms like “insiders” and similar phrases to describe those that are involved around town. Like any community, Lee’s Summit isn’t immune to the “most of the work falls on just a few” routine. But it doesn’t have to be like that. It is easy to be involved in Lee’s Summit. Making a difference is as effortless as picking up trash, reading to a kid or volunteering on a committee. Some of the strongest leaders in Lee’s Summit do it very quietly.

I will use the example of a young man named Mike Ekey who, after a little persistence, was appointed to the Lee’s Summit Arts Council and later the Planning Commission. Mike has been in town just a few years.

From our parks to our downtown, HOA’s to private schools, it takes an abundance of volunteerism and that gift of time to keep things moving. I know there are countless parents out there putting in that time when they barely have it.

Others, though, don’t bring anything to the table other than blustering and complaining. And social media has helped feed that ability to gripe unfettered and offer no real solutions.

When you listen to this loud minority, you would think Lee’s Summit is on the verge of falling to pieces. But we need to remind them that they chose Lee’s Summit. And if things aren’t great, what are they doing to make it better?

Florida sums it up nicely here:

“Finding the right place is as important as—if not more important than— finding the right job or partner because it not only influences those choices but also determines how easy or hard it will be to correct mistakes made along the way. Still, few of us actually look at a place that way. Perhaps it’s because so few of us have the understanding or mental framework necessary to make informed choices about our location.”

So, that’s the challenge. Finding your place means you’ve taken everything into consideration. Happiness isn’t about where you live, but you do live somewhere that should make you happy. If it doesn’t, change it.

Another great nugget from Florida:

“The place we choose to live affects every aspect of our being. It can determine the income we earn, the people we meet, the friends we make, the partners we choose, and the options available to our children and families. People are not equally happy everywhere, and some places do a better job of providing a high quality of life than others. Some places offer us more vibrant labor markets, better career prospects, higher real estate appreciation, and stronger investment and earnings opportunities. Some places offer more promising mating markets. Others are better environments for raising children.”

Can you read that paragraph and not think of Lee’s Summit? I can’t.

Now, go make a difference. We’re a better city and a stronger community when you do.