The Muppets came to town to perform with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at the annual Christmas Concert in Salt Lake City, Utah. Always a delightful and heartwarming performance, I encourage all who've never had the opportunity to visit the LDS Conference Center to attend one of these events. I promise you won't be disappointed.
There is a little known story with a Utah connection to the Muppets. The year was 1969 and a young man was struggling to get his career off the ground. He was giving a presentation at a Puppeteers of America Festival being held in Salt Lake City. Using light boxes, music, puppetry and film projectors, it was to be a display of daring innovation that would astound everyone. To the young man's dismay, everything was going wrong. Technical difficulties were making audience members restless and they proceeded to exit the auditorium as fast as they could. Realizing his attempt to put on a show was pretty much over, the discouraged young man began packing up his malfunctioning equipment when he was approached by a tall, gangly, soft spoken artist with an uncanny ability to recognize potential,
"I liked what you were trying to do," he said.
The man's name was Jim Henson. Caroll Spinney was the man who would go on to create the characters of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. Jim Henson proceeded to invite Mr. Spinney to come out to New York City and join his newly formed production company.
The rest, as they say, is history.
As we open the door to a new year, it is common at this time to pause and reflect both on the past and the future. Perhaps you've had a milestone event or two in your life occur this past year: graduation from school, buying a new home, landing that dream job, marriage, or the birth of a new child.
On the other hand, perhaps you anticipate many of these events happening in the coming year. You continue to hope and pray that doors will be opened, hearts will be softened, that someone will see your potential and "like what you were trying to do," because when you stop to think about it, so many of those important life events, the ones that define adulthood and signify a rite of passage, are in many ways beyond our control. All of us depend on each other to make our dreams come true.
In this new age of narcissism, when superficial looks, charisma, having the right connections and knowing the right people are the key to success, those who lack in these qualities can only continue to persevere and try their best. We get all the education we can, then pound the pavement, refusing to let discouragement overwhelm us when no guiding mentor comes along to point the way, when the only return we get in our email inboxes for our efforts is:
Thank you for your interest but we have selected another candidate for the position you applied for.
We do our best to keep the law of chastity, wait patiently for that worthy priesthood holder if you're a woman, or beauty queen if you're a man. That perfect soul-mate who never materializes, or worse, chooses someone else to create a family while you fear you've been condemned to watch from the sidelines for next twenty years or more. You cling desperately to the belief that your desire to fill the measure of your creation will not be in vain.
We try our best, in a world that celebrates marriage equality for all, to drop a gentle reminder that goodness and virtue should never be abandoned on the side of that road.
We try our best to be self sufficient, to be faithful, to serve others without recognition or compensation with the understanding that some of us may not see the fruits of our labors until the next year, the next several years, or even the next life.
Gifts and talents are honed and refined, in preparation to realize our full potential. Like the ability to create children, they give our lives meaning, purpose, direction and joy. When those talents are recognized and appreciated by others, our spirits are uplifted. Hearts swell with positive feelings of hope and satisfaction that we are on the right path to achievement and success. We work and pray and hope the day will come when someone will "like what you were trying to do." We ultimately hope to be invited to bring our gifts and talents and contribute to a greater cause. This could include the invitation to create a home or being hired in an occupation for which your particular gifts and talents are not only valued but necessary for the good of the organization. There comes a time in everyone's life when it is essential to know what the purpose of our life is and where we are going. We rely on other people to help us discover those gifts and talents, find and follow those paths and cheer us on our way.
When no recognition is forthcoming, when no one ever materializes who sees your great potential, when all you receive in return for your hard work and preparation is rejection and negative feedback, that is when this mortal life begins to drag. Instead of welcoming the new year, discouragement and cynicism have already taken over. Like Job in the Bible, you may begin to plead for death to come and put you out of your misery, because nothing ever changes. You may be forced to realize, after all of life's milestones have passed you by, when everything you tried to do has come to naught and no one is in your corner, death can be a sweet release.
Fortunately, the majority of people in this world have found their place in life and have someone to share it with. They are looking at the upcoming year with hope and resolving to try their best each day to be good parents, better people, contributing members of society.
As C.S. Lewis once said, "
“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
I hope that all of us, when it comes time to face our maker, the creator of the universe, after we have given an account of all the efforts we made to live a righteous life, we will ultimately hear Him say,
I liked what you were trying to do. Now, let me show you what I want you to become.