Sometimes it falls on us to perform a difficult task, when the task needs to be … well … performed.
Recently, I played the rather stern housekeeper, Mrs. Medlock, in Center on the Square’s production of The Secret Garden. It’s a delightful play with moving sets and lots of scene changes, as the action takes place in the library, bedroom, or garden of a large English mansion.
In one scene, Dr. Cravens introduces the child, Mary, to the head mistress of a boarding school he wants to ship her off to. I am there with a plate of cookies for tea. Mary says she doesn’t want to go to school and proceeds to throw a tantrum … and a cookie. The headmistress, exuding ‘I know how to handle these things’, makes Mary retrieve the English ‘biscuit.’
In dress rehearsals we quickly learned that the cookie seemed to have a mind of its own, despite Mary’s talent at spiking it in the same place every time. Sometimes it would break in two where it landed, as it should, other times it would skitter across the stage, and stop in a spot not convenient for wrestling. The first time that happened, the director said, ‘Be sure to get that cookie off the floor or it will be a terrible distraction to the audience.’
Back stage, we talked about it. Dr. Cravens would not pick up a cookie. He would call a servant to do it.
Then in a totally unscripted moment, it happened. One night Mary slammed the cookie and it slid stage left, behind Dr. Cravens. The headmistress did nothing. Dr. Cravens and I looked at each other and it was decided. Mrs. Medlock would pick up the cookie.
Let me tell you something about myself. I’m a senior citizen and I don’t bend too well. When I drop something I stop to consider how badly do I really want it before I expend the energy to retrieve it.
Now, I can bend over. But it’s not pretty. It usually involves drawing a lot of attention to my prominent backside. I know it is more graceful to semi-squat but sometimes when I do that I keep going and end up on my hands and knees. If I have something to hold on to, I might balance by raising one leg, something like a dog at a fire hydrant, but, alas that was not possible here.
I thought through all these options and as Mary finished her tantrum with a flair, I crossed upstage. I was aware that if this didn’t work out the cookie would no longer be the distraction. As gracefully as possible, I did the half-squat and picked up the two pieces of the cookie. All went well, thankyoulord.
There often comes a time in life when something needs to be done. It may not be our job, but we are the obvious choice. It may not be convenient, we may even be afraid. If it doesn’t work out right, we may be greatly embarrassed.
Never mind all that. Sometimes it falls to us to step up or, in this case, bend over.
When it’s up to you, just do it.
Pick up the cookie.