Today’s singular American Tale goes something like this: be bold, step out and be you, and your reward is glory and success. It may be the last inspiring story that our culture knows how to tell. Tragically, this story is rarely true, and it even neglects what it means to be human.
Yet we continue to tell this American Tale on its own merits. Consider The Greatest Showman, a film that I haven’t seen, but was so popular that it became hard to ignore (especially on social media). It’s a loosely crafted story around the historical figure of P.T. Barnum, and his conviction that society’s outcasts can be proud of their oddities. He gave them a family, and then he gave them a stage for their pageantry: Barnum & Bailey’s circus.
This is the plot of the film, and it’s distilled into its anthem, “This is Me,” sung by his favorite outcast. This song has charmed 10s of millions of people. I’m one of them.
The “making of” video (below, and here) in-and-of-itself was another retelling of our new American Tale. The lead female vocalist–Keala Settle–found her confidence while performing this song. We get to watch her transformation in the video. Keala goes from fearful to fearless. It’s inspiring and badass. Watch it!!!
The great irony here? The American Tale told within the film, the song, and video, only holds up if you ignore the truth of the video.
The defining moment in Keala’s story, in fact, is at minute 2:21, when she–still unsure–looks to someone in the choir. She put herself out there, and now she awaits a response. It’s his turn to sing, his turn to speak up.
His response? He absolutely exploded with encouragement. He looked at Keala, and ignited her with courage that she did not have. This guy sang for maybe 6 seconds. But that’s all the encouragement she needed. Keala spun on her heels and she’s a new person. WATCH IT!
This scene, however brief, is precious to watch because we all know this reflects our humble reality. We depend on each other.
Give Courage to the Bold
It’s time to back away from the new American Tale. This world isn’t a stage for you to be a victorious protagonist. We are in this together. Sometimes you are the star, but most of the time, you play a more important role.
When you see someone boldly step out, be the first to greet them. Match their courage. Sing louder. Smile wider. Whatever you do, do not ignore a righteous soul that has overcome fear.