My mom Nancy is living in a lovely assisted living facility about a mile from my house. Aside from its proximity to my home, it is also smack in the middle of my route to the Jewel/Target/Office Max, as well as a 1/8 mile side trip from my route to the high school.
This means hanging with Nancy is easy. I can drop in for 20 minutes, chatting with Mom as well as hitting Sunrise Living up for a cup of coffee (dreadful brew, made extremely weak for the residents), and then proceed on with my day. So we talk. Lots about the kids, how my garden is doing, funny things I’ve read, existential musings, the gambit.
We also chat about theatre.
Mom was an actor. We’ve hung her show posters in her apartment and I recently dug out opening night cards to read to her (Editor’s Note: Save those, people! Someday, you too will be 87 and a briefest of notes will bring back a flood of wonderful memories)
Ages ago, Mom was in a Victory Gardens production The Long Awaited. Written by Claudia Allen, featuring Meg Thalken, directed by Sandy Shinner, she had a small yet pivotal role. I produced The Long Awaited at Clockwise Theatre a few years ago. Claudia, Sandy and Meg graciously came to the opening night. After the Clockwise performance, Meg said a nice thing to Mom. She praised Mom’s work in their production of the play all those years ago.
Mom still talks about that one compliment.
An acknowledgement from a respected peer and colleague, to this day it resonates for Nancy. A confirmation that, yes, her work as a theatre artist (the most ephemeral of the arts) was good. Seen. Remembered.
Our theatre tribe is a verbally generous bunch. We hug and praise, tossing out love because we know how hard it is, this demanding business. At times, the compliments feel rushed, unimportant, too slight for how hard the path can be. But we give them anyway, knowing they will be forgotten by morning.
The kindnesses are not forgotten. The hugs, the words, the cheerleading and praise linger long after a moment has passed, an experience has been filed away.
So I want to speak up for saying the nice thing
Writing the meaningful note
Giving the hug
Noticing and commenting on a hard job, done with expertise
I’ll go first: “Meg, you showed up and your kind words made my mom very happy. You are a positive force for good in our community and thusly, in the larger world. Your actions creating well-crafted work on stage and film, supporting others, cheering and praising, make a profound difference. Thank you”