Things I Learned from R. B.


Jonathots Daily Blog

(4350)

Episode 7

Eight thousand three hundred and twenty-nine miles.

From Erie, Pennsylvania, down to Jacksonville, Florida, across to Houston, Texas, up to St. Louis, Chicago, then over to Detroit, and even Nashville, Tennessee—with many cities in between.

For thirty-one days we traveled to twenty-five cities, putting on performances of my musical, surviving on fast food, common hospitality, and the financial generosity of an audience asked to pass the hat.

Providing our transportation were two leased vans—one stripped of interior seats, which acted as utilitarian, hauling equipment and suitcases. The other was a twelve-passenger van for the cast.

There were nine of us in all. I drove the passenger van, and Gary and Don took over the responsibilities of the “Ute Van.”

They liked that. And little else.

I often wondered why the two of them had auditioned for the play in the first place. Then I realized it was because they didn’t think they would be good enough to get in, but thought it would be fun to try—never imagining they would run across a producer like myself, who was so desperate for a cast that he hired them.

Every once in a while, just to keep things honest, I sent R. B. back to ride in the Ute Van along with Gary and Don, to act as my eyes and ears.

Unfortunately, R. B. was so inexperienced that he didn’t realize the pair was smoking pot right in front of him. When we stopped for gasoline, his innocence played out comically in how loopy he acted—from exposure to second-hand smoke.

When I cracked down on Gary and Don about the grass smoking, they immediately assumed that R. B. had squealed. They confronted him and he denied it, but they never believed him. They used the remainder of the tour to make his life as miserable as possible, with practical jokes, mocking him in front of the girls in the cast, and I think once even peeing on his costume.

Even though I tried to correct the matter, the cast members were not my wards of the court, but rather, young people wanting to get by with as much as they could and doing as little as they could in the process.

One of the girls challenged R. B. to “stand up for himself.” He explained that such a maneuver was against his Christianity because he believed in “loving people and forgiving them.”

Although his rendition of the Gospels was accepted by the other cast members who heard him share it, I interrupted with a different interpretation.

“Forgiveness is powerful if you’ve already established yourself as the salt of the Earth and the light of the world. If you’re valuable—nearly indispensable—then offering the humility of forgiveness carries some weight. But if you’ve spent most of your time on the back of the bus—or the back of the van, in this case—your forgiveness just looks like what any loser would have to do.”

R. B. had to make a choice. Was he going to side with me and the rest of the troop or was he going to quietly join into the rebellion of Gary and Don, as they attempted to convince themselves that they could do everything better than me?

One night, the sponsor at our concert called me into his office about an hour before showtime. He was an old buddy—going way back. He knew everything about me, and I the same for him.

He said, “You need to get your cast straightened out. I just had three of them in here, trying to convince me that you were crazy and that they needed some relief from your dictatorial style.”

Before I could even ask my friend who the three were, he identified them. “It’s your three boys,” he said. “Gary, Don and R. B.”

I wasn’t surprised with Gary and Don. But I was quite astounded that R. B. sided with his tormentors against me.

I know the cast thought I was going to yell at them before the show once word spread that I had been informed, but I did no such thing.

When I was introduced to do the opening words before the musical began, I received warm applause from the audience, which remembered me from former days. I did something that surprised everybody—even myself.

I said, “I want to thank you all for coming out here tonight. We are not in very good spirits and have been arguing with each other for several days. I didn’t want to try to fake you out. I didn’t want to pretend. I didn’t want you guessing. The cast that’s about to come out and perform are doing a good job, and they’re probably peeing their pants right now, wondering why in the hell (pardon my language) I’m saying this. The reason I am is that we don’t have to be perfect to do good things. But it sure helps if we’re honest. So I would like you to forgive us for being mere mortals, and please allow us to take you on a journey. Perhaps in pursuing that odyssey with you, we might get in better moods ourselves.”

The audience burst into applause.

The overture began and we were off to the races. It was a brilliant show.  When some of the cast members made their entrances, you could see tears in their eyes.

I didn’t have any more trouble with Gary and Don. But R. B. was never able to get over the fact that in his opinion, I had humiliated them all in front of the audience.

Even though Gary and Don despised him, R. B. chose to befriend his detractors.

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