Viola Davis won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Fences. I love Viola Davis. She is an extremely powerful actress, giving life to what she called “the stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition, people who fell in love and lost.”
But I take exception to one thing she said in her acceptance speech. In an emotionally charged, sometimes even angry oration she said, “I became an artist and thank God I did, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.” I’m sorry Ms. Davis, but I believe you are wrong. Acting is indeed a noble profession, and it is now more than ever much needed to tell the very stories of seemingly ordinary people who have accomplished extraordinary things. But acting is NOT the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.
If you don’t believe me then I suggest you seek out the nearest social worker, health care professional, clergy member, funeral director, teacher, artist, sculptor, author, coach, journalist, soldier, community organizer, hospice worker, and I could go on. Buy them a cup of coffee and ask them about their jobs. Ask them why they do what they do. Listen carefully. You may be surprised to hear their stories.
My point is that A LOT of people in A LOT of different vocations know what it means to celebrate a life well lived. These are people who are in the trenches every single day, week after week, month after month, year after year, who actually serve and lift up the very ones you have the honor of portraying on a stage or screen.
If you’re lucky you are rewarded with a little trophy and get to say some nice words about people who have supported you along the way. And then you are on to your next character portrayal, making a handsome sum in the process. But others don’t have that luxury, nor do they ask for it. After a couple of hours at the local cineplex hoping to be inspired or entertained by your work, they are right back out there in the real world tending to the lives of real people because they do, indeed, know what it means to “live a life.”
As in thousands of Christian churches around the world, at First Lutheran we will observe the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. At this service people will receive ashes on their foreheads with a remembrance that “we are dust and to dust we shall return.” It is a stark symbol of human mortality, but also a vivid reminder that during our limited time on this earth we are called to make a difference, to live a life of self sacrifice and service to others, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus even though the road led to a cross. We do it because we know, Ms. Davis, there is value and integrity in every single life. We were taught this by the One who gave his life for us.
If you know someone who knows what it means to celebrate life, to live life abundantly, and would like to honor them, kindly write their names in the response box. And, more importantly, if they are still alive take a moment to share with them how important they are to you.