I’ve been thinking a lot about the “Wizard of Oz” recently. For one thing, this year marks the 80th anniversary of that timeless film. Although the movie didn’t garner an Oscar for Best Picture, it was nominated for five Academy Awards. As you may recall, it won for Best Original Song category with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
There’s another reason I have “Oz” on my mind. One of the residents at Covenant Shores was actually in the movie. Meredythe Glass was only 18 years old when the film’s producer (her cousin) found a part for her.
The movie adaptation of Frank Baum’s story never seems to grow old. One of the reasons may be the fact that the 1939 film portrays a gripping picture of the human condition.
The tornado that catapulted the Kansas farm girl into the imaginary kingdom is more than just a tornadic wind. We all face storms in life. Some gale force winds are worse than others. They are clocked with varying velocities. But we all face them. A health crisis. Unexpected unemployment. A car accident. The death of a marriage. The death of a child or a spouse. Perhaps the death of a dream.
Such ill breezes can blow us off course or knock us off balance. When our worlds spin out of control, our confidence is shaken. We aren’t sure where to turn or who to turn to. About the only thing of which we are certain is that we aren’t in “Kansas” anymore.
It’s a times like this we discover what Dorothy did. We need a company of committed friends to keep on going. When she first met the scarecrow, the tin man and the lion, there’s no way the young girl from Kansas could have known just how much they would help her survive.
Nearly 30 years ago, I was knocked off my feet by a psychological cyclone called clinical depression. It was an unanticipated storm the local weather man could never have predicted. For nine months I was trapped in a dark storm cellar of despair. But gratefully I was not alone.
Three friends walked beside me as I gradually found my way out of that emotional basement. Each made time for me. Without judgment they listened to my heart. Their presence reminded me I wasn’t alone.
These who journeyed with me were not professional counselors. And they did not have their “acts” entirely together. Each limped along crippled by their own individual struggles.
One was dealing with the emotional pain associated with parenting a child with special needs. Another was attempting to dance with a difficult marriage. The third was a retired military officer who was rebounding from his own personal (and painful) bout with depression.
As we shared our lives together, we helped each other shoulder a burden that was too heavy for any one of us to carry alone. Thankfully, the dark clouds eventually lifted and I walked out into the sunlight once again.
Through it all I discovered, like Dorothy did, that the most helpful companions are those who live with unmet expectations of their own. In the longing for what is lacking in our own lives, we develop a capacity for showing compassion to others.
What makes the “Wizard of Oz” the timeless classic that it is has to do with the unlikely fellowship of friends who travel the yellow brick road together. What makes the difficult journey of life meaningful is the privilege of sharing the road with those we encounter on the way.
Greg Asimakoupoulos is the chaplain at Covenant Shores Retirement Community.