I went to see The Greatest Showman the other day with my daughter. It was an amazing film-I was drawn into the story and my heart longed to see where it was going and how it would end.
I highly recommend it for two hours of uplifting entertainment.
But I’ve been thinking about it since.
So I did a little digging into P.T. Barnum’s REAL life story.
As you might imagine, several liberties were taken with actual history in order to create what I saw on the screen. That’s really just fine. I knew what I was getting into when I plunked my money down for the ticket. I had no illusion that I was walking into a history lecture- I understood I was there to be entertained.
When I compared the actual Barnum life story to the tidy, beautiful, uplifting and wonderfully scored musical I had seen in the theater, I found gaping holes.
And most of the holes involved the hard and ugly parts of his story-the parts people don’t like to talk about, much less live through.
While leaving them out or glossing them over with a moment or two of wistful glances for the movie is exactly what I expect from Hollywood, it can condition hearts to expect the same kind of thing in real life.
But real life stories don’t skip over the hard parts.
Real people have to live through the ugly and the painful and the devastating and the doubt and the sorrow. We don’t get to hop right to the happy ending (if there even IS a happy ending) nor do we get to whitewash the dark truths that inform our experience.
And because we prefer tidy (and happy) endings, bright and sunny days, encouraging and uplifting stories, when we are face to face with a challenging and difficult reality, we often turn away.
If we don’t hear it, it doesn’t matter.
If we don’t look, it didn’t happen.
If we wait long enough in our safe cocoon, someone else will deal with it.
Sometimes those of us in the middle of hard stories try to ignore it. But busyness and distraction do not make bad times better. Maybe for a moment, but not in the long run.
We’ve got to learn to experience it all, tell it all, be honest about how dark the path, how difficult the journey.
And those who are on the sunny side of the street need to learn to lean into friendship, cross over and offer compassionate companionship to those who are struggling.
Because sooner or later, it will be all of us.