One of the most enduring musical plays of all time, The Music Man, is also one of my favorites.
If you haven’t seen a stage presentation of it, you still can! It is currently playing on Broadway (at the Winter Garden) and stars Hugh Jackman as Professor Harold Hill. But hurry — after playing since February it will close in January of 2023.
Of course there is always the classic movie version with Robert Preston as the Professor and Shirley Jones as the River City town librarian, Marian Paroo.
The most famous song in this fabulous musical, written by Meredith Willson, is Ya Got Trouble.
The Professor, in case you aren’t familiar with the plot, is a con man, and he’s trying to create a “need” in River City, Iowa. He does that through the song Trouble, in which he paints a picture of the youth of the town heading for degradation because a pool table has been brought into town.
The Professor starts it all beautifully with the line: “Friend, either you’re closing your eyes to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated by a pool table in your community.”
The first part has a ring of truth in it. We’ve all closed our eyes to some trouble we didn’t want to see.
We got trouble
Willson (with a lot of work) produced The Music Man on Broadway in 1957. There was certainly national and international news then, but nothing like the overwhelming deluge we have today.
Here’s a recent sample: New Orleans is named the murder capital of the United States (murders per 100,000 of population); Hurricane Fiona makes landfall in Puerto Rico and knocks out power everywhere — 30 inches of rain in some parts causes dangerous flooding; an indigenous community in Saskatchewan is reeling after a stabbing spree in early September left 10 dead and 18 injured; and oh, by the way, there is still a war in Ukraine.
Before I leave this potentially depressing trend, many of us who are part of the Do Good community have troubles of our own. Illnesses, financial challenges, family and friends with serious issues — those are things normal people deal with every day.
We don’t need any more bad news, because we are already living with it. (Have you been to the grocery store lately?)
It is natural to push aside (close our eyes to) any bad news that doesn’t affect us directly. But that is often for our own mental health, not because we don’t care.
An almost perfect picture of this is Russians who live in Moscow versus those who live near the Ukrainian border. When asked about life in Moscow, New York Times correspondent Valerie Hopkins said, “It’s kind of surreal to be here and to see people going on about their lives almost as if nothing has happened.”
On the other hand, Russians who live in Belgorod, a city of 400,000 just 25 miles from the Ukrainian border and perhaps 50 miles from Kharkiv, can now hear the bombing. They have Ukrainian refugees and Russian soldiers who have fled the fighting living in a tent city. For them the war can no longer be ignored.
What do we do?
Just thinking about all of that is enough to make you want to curl up in a fetal position and ask for a blanket and a binky. That’s a legitimate response, it seems to me, though of course it doesn’t help much in the long term.
So here are a few ideas that you may find useful when trouble comes to River City.
- Acknowledge it. Get it into your mind that this world is full of both good and evil, and that you’re going to hear a lot more about the bad than you are about the good. Keep the covers handy, but when you get bad news it’s better to acknowledge it than try to shut it out.
- Sort it. Put the bad news into a category that you create. The largest one might be something like “Things to pray about” and the smallest might be “I can help work on this.” Or you might sort them in other ways. But sorting means you’ve done something.
- Let it settle. Rare are the problems you have to deal with immediately. If that happens, you’ll know what to do. In other cases, let the problem settle while your mind “background processes” and decides if there is anything to do or not.
- Act when you should. An idea might come to you about something you can do. When it does, do it.
- Resolve to not add to your list of troubles or someone else’s list. That means do good as often as you can.
- Take time every day to remember the good. A little bit of that can go a long, long way.
A real life example
I recently played in a charity golf event that Amy Bockerstette was part of. She was born with Down syndrome. Her father said in a talk that he grieved a little when he found out. He was sad that he wouldn’t be able to play sports with her because of her condition.
That has not been the case, and I’ll write about her and her family in another post.
For the few days before that event I’d been fighting a cold, had to miss some gatherings, and just felt crummy. But I recovered enough to get there, and the good of that day brought me back into balance.
The men I got to play golf with, meeting Amy and her parents, and seeing all the good being done lifted my spirit.
I can go in the strength of that for at least this week, just by looking at the picture of my friends and me with Amy.
And I’m encouraged by you. You may not make the news, but you are out there doing good and I know it.
Thank you! Keep up the good work.