Guest Post by Kaitlyn Iocco
“Now, just remember that this thing isn’t as black as it appears.”
My dear friend spoke these much-needed words of encouragement to me on a day when the world felt like it was crashing down on me. I had spent my lunch break, well, having a breakdown in my car. My husband, Ben, and I were producing and directing a musical version of It’s a Wonderful Life, and I had just found out about a terrible mix-up with our venue, which would doubtless result in having to cancel two of our performances. Seeing no light at the end of the tunnel, I felt momentarily hopeless and, like George Bailey must have felt when Uncle Billy lost the $8,000, totally blindsided.
Looking back now over the past few months, I suppose I felt a lot like George throughout the production process of the show. We experienced equal parts blessing and hardship: from big issues, like the venue confusion, to small interruptions, like costume rentals not being ready until literally the last minute—super stressful interruptions for someone like me who likes to have all her ducks in a row with time to spare. There were lots of good times, but there were also times when I thought, Why? If our purpose as a theatre company is to do good, why would God allow bad things to happen in return?
When we look at George Bailey’s life, we see someone who chose to do the right thing again and again, and each time was practically punished for it. When he rescues his brother Harry from the icy water, George loses his hearing in one ear. When he prevents Mr. Gower the druggist from poisoning the pills, he is beaten. When there’s a run on the bank, he and Mary give up their hard-earned money and honeymoon to rescue the Building and Loan.
But, also like George Bailey, “we came through the thing all right.” I prayed so hard that God would redeem the problem with the venue. I didn’t know if He would do that by reversing the situation or showing us some other solution. For a short while, part of me was half expecting to check my email and see a message from the venue saying the issue was “magically” solved and we could continue with our Sunday performances after all. But that didn’t happen, and while we had to go through the trouble of performance cancellations, refunds, and rescheduling, we moved on.
This is not to say that the entire production process was a disaster. On the contrary: while some things didn’t work out, lots of things did, and by the end of the show, in It’s a Wonderful Life fashion, I stood backstage with my husband, our cast, and crew before our closing performance, feeling enveloped by love and friendship. The hardships we faced had actually brought us all closer as a community. As people from the cast and crew shared what the story of It’s a Wonderful Life means to them personally and what they had each learned and gained by working with our theatre company, I felt overwhelmed and humbled by God’s goodness. Life can be hard at times, but God is faithful. He gave us the gift of friendship and community.
It seems like human nature to do good and expect to receive good in return. When we do the right thing or go out of our way to do something nice for someone, we expect to receive a pat on the back, a reward, a return on our investment. But perhaps the blessings that we do receive don’t always come wrapped in a beautiful package and tied with a bow. Sometimes we have to go through difficult times to realize how blessed we truly are.
Standing backstage with the cast, crew, and production team, I saw the lasting impact of everyone’s hard work on the production. Of course, I hoped that our audiences also walked away inspired and changed, but what I saw in front of me backstage was how I experienced firsthand the lasting impact of so many people uniting to be a part of something bigger than themselves. The shining faces I saw, the stories I heard of lives changed, and the hugs I received humbled and encouraged me. I thought, This is what it’s all about.
What is success? How do we define it? From George Bailey, Clarence, and the citizens of Bedford Falls, I have learned that, when it comes down to it, life is about relationships. This is a biblical principle; the first and second greatest commandments given to us by Jesus are to love God and love others. This means putting others before ourselves, loving sacrificially and unconditionally, and never giving up on love, no matter what life throws our way. Even when bad things happen and we are not met with good for the good we do, we can look around us and be reminded, “No man is a failure who has friends.”
As we celebrate the birth of the Savior and gather with friends and family this Christmas, may we open our hearts and homes and remember that while life’s greatest blessings might come in unexpected packages, they are the gifts that keep on giving.
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Kaitlyn Iocco is a social media associate and holds a BA in English and BFA in performance. A theatre lover and the author of her great-grandfather’s biography, The Lord Is Not Through With Me Yet, Kaitlyn is passionate about storytelling. She and her husband, Ben, were married in 2016 and together lead Merit Theatre Company. They live in Burlington, KY, in a cozy little cabin with their cat, Pearl.