Nine years ago, Paula Helle had a vision. She rounded up a bunch of young people, taught them to sing, dance and act, and put them on a stage in a historic opera house in Ellisville, Illinois.
And then she did it again. And again. And again and again and again. And when those kids grew up – they became high schoolers – she started another play for them. And nine years later, they're still going strong, with a high school production in June and a younger kids' production in October. She calls them the Spoon River Rascals.
Here she is, their Fearless Leader, giving them last minute instructions and a quick pep talk.
My oldest, Jenna, joined the cast four years ago. Nathan got on board quickly, too, and Caroline made her first appearance this year. That's right; the October production involves kids ages 2 to 14. Seriously. The woman works with toddlers and junior highers. That right there deserves a medal or something.
The thing is, we are so incredibly grateful for Paula. Because despite the nightly practices (during harvest), the costumes, the meltdowns and the general lack of sleep, this has to be one of the best things my kids could possibly be involved in. They've learned to work, to be on stage, to have a presence, to speak confidently in front of a room full of people. And to have a good time doing it. And let's be real; given the athletic prowess of their parents, this is the closest my kids will likely ever get to a team sport.
The point is, the show absolutely would not happen without Paula.
And Paula is like any number of people all across the rural Midwest. She saw a need and she did something about it. She gave a group of kids some skills they might never have acquired otherwise, and she raised money to keep a crumbling opera house open. Honestly, the fact that my kids were skipping around the house singing "Wells Fargo Wagon" and "Gary, Indiana" instead of some Miley Cyrus song is worth a whole lot to me. And remember the county fair number? That was all Paula's doing. (If you haven't seen the video, you must. And rest assured, Nathan loves kindergarten after all.)
Think about those folks like Paula in your community. They sit on the school board, they direct musicals, they chair consolidation committees, they direct VBS. They give time out of their lives and energy they may not have to do something that needs done. They are exactly what makes a rural community great.
Thanks & Giving Day 10: Time