You ever think you are too good to do something? That your pride would never let you stoop that low? That to do that one thing (fill in the blank) is beneath you? If you say “Never,” I know you’re lying. But that’s okay. Our egos are a fragile thing.
In the late 1980s, we had moved back from Los Angeles. My ego was at an all-time low. I had spent three years in Hollywood racking up a series of film auditions where I was consistently told I was “not right for the part.” That’s the life I chose, so I had to accept being “not right,” and move on, but still, the wounds went deep.
When we moved back to the Nashville area we were broke, and I had no prospects for professional employment. I painted houses, cut and hung tobacco, planted shrubbery for landscaping, anything to make an honest buck. Then I got a call from an actor friend telling me he was recommending me for a job. For two years in a row he had performed in a church pageant and that year he could not do it. It was a paying gig…a well-paying gig.
One would think I would leap at the chance of getting back on stage and not have to climb to the rafters of a sweltering barn to hang sticks of tobacco leaves. But I wavered. Had my career sunk to this point, where all I was offered were church pageants? Not that there’s anything wrong with church pageants, but really…church pageants?
That year it looked like we’d be having a Bob Cratchit family Christmas. Still, the thought of wisemen, shepherds, angels, Joseph and Mary and baby Jesus in a manger, and God-forbid, barnyard beasts, gave my sore heart misgivings. That is, until I told Kay and she gave me that look that said, “What is wrong with you?” I accepted the offer.
It would only be for this one time, I reasoned, and I can do anything once. It did not have to go on the resume. Do the job. Take the money. Buy some nice presents for Kay and the girls, and don’t think about it. But then when you least expect it, there was this Christmas miracle in my heart.
The people I worked with were wonderful. They embraced me and my family with such loving and giving hearts that it broke me. And as for the production, it was really good. So good in fact, that I came back the next year, and the next, for five years in a row. I was even asked by the director to write some of the scripts.
While those five Christmas pageants have not made it onto the resume, they were watershed moments in my life. If you ask me if I believe in miracles, I have to say yes, and this one has stuck with me all my life.