Class of ’47
When I flew to Dallas on Sunday evening, I was upgraded to first class. Since there are fewer flights, and those are usually packed, I have found that I have a little more room, and better service, in the first class cabin. Now I wouldn’t pay excessive amounts of money to upgrade, but for $60, I think it is worth it. So, when there are vacancies, I try to get up front. One bad thing about it is that you can’t choose your seat. So I was a little disappointed when I found out that I would be be in 3F – that’s the bulkhead window seat.
Now one of the things about flying first class is that you can usually get a little extra leg room, but not in the first row. So I settled in for a long ride. The guy who sat next to me on the aisle was dressed in blue jeans, had a Michigan State tee shirt on and wore a cap from the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. I tried to create a little conversation and let him know that Janet and I had been on the Midway when we were out in San Digo recently. While we were out there, we knew the president was going to visit the Reagan, but I didn’t realize that Michigan State was playing basketball on the deck of the carrier. My seat mate attended the game and told me how neat it was to travel and watch a game with the country’s president.
He also let me know that he had been in Indy last Saturday evening to watch the Big 10 final between Michigan and Wisconsin. Wisconsin won, but that didn’t make much difference to him because he told me he had travelled to hundreds of games – after all, apparently he is a big donor to the school and gets preferred treatment and tickets to any games he wishes to attend.
The guy, now 61, and whose name I never learned, had been a physician and almost died when he was in his late 40’s. He quit his practice and travelled around the world for 10 years with his kids. When he was still alive, and out of money, he became a businessman in an offshore business and apparently is doing very well. Anyway, he started talking about his father, now 90, and how he was still very vital. Of course, I let him know that Janet’s father is 90 and is also really sharp and so we started talking about aging and the histories of these 2 men. His father had served in WWII, as had John, and there were other similarities. Both men went to school in Chicago; John to the University of Chicago and his father to Northwestern.
I found out that his Dad had studied theatre at Northwestern and he let me know that his father was classmates with Charlton Heston. So was my mother – same school, same class! I couldn’t believe it. Suddenly, I was hearing about Paul Lynde, Cloris Leachman, McLean Stevenson, Patricia Neal, Charlotte Rae, Tony Randall, Carol Lawrence, Claude Akins and a host of other classmates who went on to great fame in the theatre and acting world. All of these names were people I have heard about since my earliest childhood. Buy while these stars were in front of the camera, my mother preferred lighting and work behind the scenes. Anyway, this man had seen his Dad’s playbills from the old days and had memorized names from the class. I find it hard to believe, but he says that read my mother’s name, Louise LaRue, on many of the programs.
I was a little surprised. After all, both his mother and father are still living and he still hears these stories of their past. Both my parents are gone now, and have been for some time, so it was fascinating to talk with someone who had heard countless stories about arguably the most talented group of actors and actresses who ever attended the same class. All too soon, the plane was starting to descend into DFW. The man asked for my card, which I provided, and promised to email me a playbill from Northwestern. I haven’t heard from him yet, but hope that I will.
Anyway, the lives of these people remind me of people in the Bible who acted and provided entertainment for others. Many times, slaves and others were asked to perform for kings and royal courts. One such story revolves around Samson, who was captured by the Philistines, after they cut his hair to neutralize his strength. You see, Samson was a Nazarite – a person whose life had been dedicated to God and he had never cut his hair. After being betrayed, the Philistines cut his long hair while Samson was sleeping and they gouged his eyes out and put him to work in the prison doing manual labor.
In Judges 16;25, the court called for Samson to come to them. We are told in the Scripture, “While they were in high spirits, they shouted, “Bring out Samson to entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them.” Only the performance wasn’t what they were expecting. Samson called upon God to return his strength to him one last time and then used the occasion to stand between two pillars and actually topple the building. Although Samson died in the process, he became a hero for destroying the Philistines in the process.
My encouragement tonight is to let you know that there are times when we all “act.” In other words, we appear to be something other than we are. While God understands this in certain instances, such as the story from Samson, or Rahab, or several others, God desires for us to be completely genuine and authentic in our relationship with Him. So even if we can act like Heston, or Stevenson, or Neal, or Leachman, that’s not what God wants to see from us. So my prayer is that we may all be ourselves, and completely transparent to God as we earnestly seek Him in our lives. Have a great day in the Lord….