Friday, October 26, 2012

A Very Momentous "When Swing Was King"

Yesterday afternoon we presented "When Swing Was King" (for the 11th time this month, 1 more to go) at a place we'd never been before, an assisted living facility down in Papillion.

Upon first surveying the place, I really thought we might have to cancel for it was a very difficult room in which to play music and display a Power Point show. The room was the entrance hall/welcome center -- large, dramatically angular, high ceilings, and absolutely flooded with light from windows and skylights. We do have black plastic curtains we sometimes use but this was way beyond that trick.

But on our side were three things: 1) the fact that it was a very overcast afternoon which made it dark enough that the audience could see the screen pretty well, 2) the facility had provided a sound system that I could use for the program commentary (our system just takes care of the music itself), and 3) we had a large contingent already on hand who seemed quite eager for us to give them a show!

The average age of the residents at this facility we were told was 92 but the affectionate, heart-warming time we shared together made us all feel like the title of one of the songs we played, "Younger Than Springtime." We had been warned that the residents of this place didn't get involved with special activities very much but the crowd was quite large, very enthusiastic, and most appreciative. The staff was extremely helpful and they were thrilled at how well it went. "Oh, this was so great. We know you're busy but is there any way you could fit us in to your schedule?"

Well, maybe so.

We know we have to limit the number of "When Swing Was King" presentations -- Claire and I do have plenty of other things we do for Vital Signs Ministries -- but we also yearn to bring this delightful, soul-stirring program to as many places as we can. We frequently pray that the Lord shows us just where we most need to be. And the size of the crowd here, the joy the residents obviously experienced, the enthusiastic help we had from the staff, and the many friendships we were able to launch in just this one afternoon -- all of this suggested that this was definitely a place we should try and squeeze into our monthly schedule.

But what about that well-lit room? On an ordinary day, it would be way too much for residents to watch the show. Well, the Lord seemed to have that covered too for just the day before we had made our first evening presentation of "When Swing Was King" at an independent living complex and it was a big hit. Unexpectedly big. So that's what we offered to this facility.

And that's what they immediately accepted!

Now for just a few of the fun and inspirational moments from yesterday:

One lady told Claire. "I enjoyed this so much. It brought back so many memories -- memories that gave me a lump (holding her throat) but memories that were just wonderful." Claire replied, "Yes, all of our memories, even some of the sad ones, are precious to us, aren't they?" The lady said, "Oh yes. You're so right. I do hope you come again soon."

I started a conversation with one of the fellows by asking him about his tattoo. It turned out that he had been in the U.S. Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. But that's not where he got the tattoo. He got that earlier when he was serving in the Portuguese navy! We had a swell time talking about some of his experiences.

There were several other highlights from our visits after the show including the 97-year old lady who told us about her father's woodworking back in North Dakota; people remembering dances attended at Peony Park and other places; and the woman's husband who used to tell the neighbors when they left for vacations, "If you see the house burning down, just try and save the Guy Lombardo records!"  She also explained how the bartenders at Peony Park used to hate it when Guy Lombardo came to play because everybody was always on the dance floor instead of sitting at the tables drinking.

The same lady (very tall and pretty) told me how glad she was when she met her  husband in Saginaw, Michigan because he was handsome and 6' 7". "Finally, I had someone I could dance with! And, boy, did we love to go dancing." I asked her to tell me a bit more about him (he died several years ago) and she was really pleased to do so.

And one other thing from yesterday that's interesting, at least to Claire and me. Because of the way the staff had set up the microphone and speaker stands, I had to "set up shop" in the front of the audience rather than at the back where I usually do. The result was that the audience seemed even more engaged than usual. Now, Tom Sharman from Tesco Studios had suggested this quite awhile ago, "You're an important part of the show, so be where they can see you instead of being a disembodied voice at the rear." We now see that he was right. And even those things I thought might be distracting to an audience, like fiddling with the equipment, giggling at one of the pictures on the screen, or moving along with the music, Claire decided were actually a plus. So, from now on, up to the front I'll go.

All in all, it was a delightful and momentous "When Swing Was King" event -- for them and for us. Please keep praying for this ministry and do consider coming along sometime to join in the fun. They'd love to have you.