Twenty-five years ago when Julie and I drove into Statesboro with the kids, we knew we had been blessed by God Who had brought us home. Strangers waved at us as we drove in, the streets were clean and there was little traffic up and down old two-lane Fair Road. I think there were only a few places to eat — mostly family style — and Georgia Southern College had perhaps 9,000 students.
The corn fields were blistered by a long drought and even in early June the temperature must have been 95 degreesa and not a cloud in the sky. Julie took the kids and went looking for a drive-in or some place that had some fast food to go while I sat on the stoop of the Presbyterian Manse to wait for the moving van that would soon arrive. I guess we had moved in about half our furniture when a tornado came through and we all spent about an hour hunkered down in a back room of the house until the storm passed by. We didn't care, not one whit!
God brought us to this wonderful place safely, and He'd take care of the rest! And so He did!
We'd been here for about a year, learning something new every day, getting to know the congregation and finding out just why Statesboro is the envy of southeast Georgia. I happened to talk with a young man, recently graduated from GSC — not a university just yet — who said to me, "I can't wait to move out of this town."
I asked him, "Why in the world would anyone want to move from this great place?"
"Why? There's nothing to do around here. It is so boring."
Last Thursday night, Julie and I sat with a packed house at the Emma Kelly theater as the curtain opened for the beginning of "The Music Man." Here was a passenger car filled with traveling salesmen pitching the merits of "knowing the territory!" Their spiel went back and forth in rhythm with the movement of the train car and we were all caught up in their energy. When the final salesman shouted, "But he doesn't know the territory!" the audience hooted and hollered! We knew we were going to get one great show! And, boy, we sure did!
Director Mical Whisker and Dr. Michael Braz, internationally-known, gifted musician, put their brilliance to the test. Did they succeed? Well, we stomped our feet, elbowed our partners, cheered the actors, singers, dancers and orchestra, and we jumped to our feet and applauded with enough enthusiasm to make the building shake! We were not applauding for River City, Iowa. We were applauding for the townspeople of Statesboro, Georgia, who are proud of their opinions, sometimes think they've got trouble with a capital "T" that rhymes with "P" and that stands for pool, are suspicious of traveling salesmen, enjoy their library, picnics by the ponds, barber shop quartets, marching bands, homemade ice cream and when people meet and fall in love. And of course, perfect endings.
Mical and Mike, can we do it again next year?
Playwright Robert Meredith Willson wrote this musical for Iowa, but I believe he wrote "The Music Man" for every small hometown that was created to be just the right size for families who want to live in a place that knows how to raise their children to be the next generation of honest, hard-working and gentle folk just like the last generation.
That's what I saw and heard about last Thursday. That's what I see and hear when I talk to the folks I know. I say, "Hello," shake their hands, share some stories and wave goodbye with a grin because I know we'll meet one another real soon.
I guess, in a nostalgic way, I see lots of people who seem to walk through life as though there is no excitement, no purpose, no meaning and no change. That may be the case if they never have the opportunity or reason to slow down and enjoy the moment.
Let me say this with a smile and reassuring word, "There is music in the air. Stop for just a second and listen. Maybe you'll hear, "Seventy-Six Trombones," and perhaps you'll catch a bit of, "Lids Rose." Maybe you'll hear what I heard when I first met Julie, "Til There Was You."
Now that's worth a standing ovation!