Sunday, March 7, 2010

When We Believe

I have this story I tell about going to see "Peter Pan" at a matinee in London, back when I lived there in 1981 - of how magical it was, to see that show in a theater full of children. One of the boys sitting in front of me, there on a school trip, turned around to his teacher at intermission and said in his wonderful British accent, "This is super!" And it was.

I tell the story often enough that I ended up writing about it a few years ago. I thought, on today of all days, this year of all years, this moment of all moments, as I keep myself buoyed for all things possible, that I'd post that writing here. It's about seeing "Peter Pan" and that one moment... well - I'll let the essay speak for itself. (Imagine it read aloud - it's better that way.)
It happens every time - especially at the matinees, where virtually the entire audience is children. The children are sitting mesmerized because Tinkerbell has just downed Peter Pan's "medicine" - the vial that Captain Hook poisoned while Peter slept. Tinkerbell has just stepped in, just in the nick of time, and has drunk the medicine herself so that Peter won't die from it.

But what about Tinkerbell? What's happening to Tinkerbell? Her jingle is getting weak. It dawns on Peter what has happened. "The medicine was poisoned and you drank it to save my life!" He says. "Tink, dear Tink, are you dying?" He asks, as her sound grows weak. "Her light is growing faint, and if it goes out, that means she's dead! Her voice is so low I can scarcely tell what she is saying..."

He falls to his knees and leans down with his ear to the sound of her bell, getting as close as he can to hear her. Her light flickers weakly... "Jingle, jingle... tink... " (softly) "tink..."

Suddenly he turns to the children in the audience. His face is almost ashen, but there is a ray of hope there too. "She says - she says she thinks she could get well again if children believed in fairies!" he says, in awe himself that this might save her. He stands before the audience, rushes from side to side, wills them to hear him. "Do you believe in fairies?" He asks. "Say quick that you believe!"

This is when shouts come from the audience. Every time I have seen this play, shouts have come from the audience at this point (especially at a matinee, when there is a sea of children).

But it is the next line that moves the theater in to magic. For this is when Peter says, "If you believe.... then clap your hands! Clap!"

And they do. They clap. They clap to show that they believe.

And then, in the midst of their clapping, there is a flicker of light. And a jingle. And another flicker, another jingle, both stronger now. It is when we know - Tinkerbell's alive! She's been saved! "Oh, thank you thank you!" Peters says to the children in the audience...

Go sometime. Make sure it's a matinee, with an audience full of children. See for yourself the magic of that moment. Look at the children's faces. Feel your own heart. See what can happen when we believe. Feel what we feel when we believe. Do it. Go. I bet you clap.

photo credit: Liz West, found here

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