“It Only Takes a Moment...”
On March 17, Steve and I squeezed into our seats at the Shubert Theater on 44th Street in NYC for the third night of previews for Hello, Dolly! starring Bette Midler.
The Shubert was built a little over a hundred years ago, and perhaps folks were smaller back then, but for whatever the reason the seats in that old theater are tight—really tight. On the night of our last visit there, it mattered not at all—and the close quarters might even have enhanced the comradery and collective excitement that filled every seat in the house.
Everyone in that theater on that night absolutely wanted to be right there—and nowhere else. In the minutes before the first notes of the overture played, like everyone else, we chatted with our neighbors in the surrounding rows. We quickly made some observations about the crowd: first, more of them that I would have guessed had connections to Rehoboth Beach; second, everyone was a fan of Hello, Dolly! and everyone loved Bette Midler.
I’m quite sure that my feelings about the show that night were colored by the enthusiasm of the crowd. I’m also quite sure that I had a grin on my face all night long.
Of course, the show is nostalgic. It first opened in 1964. I was 10, and I loved it. In the privacy of my bedroom I performed “Elegance” over and over again.
No wonder my parent’s response to my eventual coming out was a simple: “Yes, we know.”
Then there’s Bette. Like gay boys everywhere, The Divine Miss M had me hooked from the moment I first saw that iconic album cover.
All of that said, I would have been very surprised if I had not thoroughly enjoyed the show that night—and I am most definitely not an unbiased critic.
What struck me about the performance was the sweetness of the show. Of course, it’s a period piece, and even cleaned up and dusted off, it is still a little old fashioned in the age of Hamilton, but that is part of its charm. Bette’s performance is also sweet—every once in a while a little campy, yet still genuine and, yes, sweet.
Hello, Dolly! is a simple story about love—everybody in it falls in love.
With all the political turmoil of the past year, with all the hate language we have heard lately, I needed a simple story about love—and it didn’t hurt one bit that Bette was the one to tell it for me.
The week following our New York visit was an important one for the staff and leadership of CAMP Rehoboth. On Monday, the Board of Directors gathered for its annual spring mini-retreat. The following day, the staff—both paid and volunteer—participated in a half day workshop developed especially for us by Tim White of PeopleView Advisors. Both events were created to improve the way we work with each other and with the community we serve.
An important take-away from both events was the understanding we are all—staff and board—passionate about the work we do at CAMP Rehoboth. That doesn’t mean we always get things right; it does mean that we are willing to do all we can to try and improve our programming, our collaboration with each other and other organizations, and the way we respond to and engage with every person who calls or visits the Community Center.
In the middle of the CAMP Rehoboth logo there is a heart—and our vision to be “the heart of the community” continues to guide us in all that we do. As a symbol, the heart has many meanings—just as there are multiple meanings for the word love. As human beings we generally understand the distinctions of offering love to one another. There is romantic love, the brotherly love of friends, the love of family—plus all the casual ways we toss the word and its many emoticons into our conversations and online interactions with one another.
A powerful connection is made whenever we say the words, “I love you”—no matter the nature of our relationship to the recipient.
Toward the end of the second act of Hello, Dolly!, Cornelius, Mrs. Malloy, and all those carted off to jail after the melee at the Harmonia Gardens, sing “It only takes a moment…to be loved your whole life long.”
That song is about romantic love, of course, but the notion that we are capable of making an instantaneous connection with someone else certainly speaks to the way we interact with others—and could easily be applied to every person walking through the door of CAMP Rehoboth. I don’t mean we have to throw our arms around them and say “I love you” to everyone who enters; we do need to take the time to respect and welcome all who come to us—for whatever reason that might be.
At our staff retreat, we agreed that was our goal. The reality is not always that simple: bad moods, crushing deadlines, health issues, family concerns, and a hundred other possible distractions can easily overwhelm our good intentions. Sometimes it only takes a moment to share our own worries and pain instead of the intended good will and welcome—and that is true for all situations and for all people, not just those of us at CAMP Rehoboth.
There has been a great outpouring of ugly behavior in the world in recent months. Our leaders model outrageous behavior, we are forced to mine political statements for fragments of truth, compromise and collaboration have become dirty words, and greed seems to triumph over compassion.
We yearn to live in a world where kindness, truth, respect, compassion, and love in all its many forms offers welcome and relief to souls weary of a culture at war with itself.
No single one of us can change the world. Every single one of us can change a moment in the day for the next person we encounter.
“It only takes a moment…to be loved your whole life long.”
Murray Archibald, CAMP Co-founder and President of the Board of Directors of CAMP Rehoboth, is an artist in Rehoboth Beach. Email Murray.