Fun Is Cancelled

DEAR SEAN:

I don’t think my school is going to have prom for 2021, everyone is guessing this is the case. We don’t know yet, but it’s probably not happening. It just sucks that we might not get to do this because we have nothing to look forward to.

Thanks,
A-SAD-JUNIOR

DEAR SAD:

First of all, I am sorry. I know this year has been a major let down. So I am not going to offer you some overused parental slogan like: “You oughta count your blessings, young lady.”

When I was a kid I heard versions of this phrase all the time from my mama. And I swore these words would never, EVER exit my lips. Because this is old-person talk, and I’m no fuddy-duddy.

Although, before I write another word, you should know something. Life is unfair and nothing you can do will change this. Not just a little unfair, either. A lot unfair.

Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in karaoke clubs. Have you ever been to one? They are totally criminal. Singers with the pitch sensitivity of tugboat airhorns try to sing “I Will Always Love You” while spilling their Harvey Wallbangers all over the audience. And these people get standing ovations.

Meanwhile, the guy who sings from memory all eight verses of Allan Sherman’s masterpiece, “Hello Mudda, Hello Fadduh,” gets booed off the stage. I ask you, is this fair?

Something else unfair? The price of automotive tires. I bought new truck tires a few days ago and they cost as much as a three-bedroom rambler. I remember buying secondhand tires when I was a younger man for $19 apiece from “Al’s Used Tire Barn.” Al even threw in a complimentary emergency flare gun.

You know what else really sucks? Body pain. I had spinal surgery when I was in my mid-20s; nobody ever tells you how quickly chronic pain can ruin your life. And here’s the worst part: chronic pain affects about 50 million Americans. That’s roughly the population of eight U.S. states. How’s that for unfair?

While we’re on a roll, here’s another. Last night, 390 million people went to bed hungry. Starving actually. And in your own national backyard, 11 million kids live with empty pantries.

I once knew a couple of kids in my town who grew up in “food insecure” households. One of them was in such brittle health he died from pneumonia.

Starvation, in case you’re wondering, happens like this: Your body starts eating its own muscular tissue in a last-ditch effort to fuel your brain. But after a while it’s no use. Without calories, your cells can’t fight off viruses and bacteria, so your body gives up. Your belly bloats, your skin starts flaking away. Your teeth fall out.

Whenever you have a bad day, think about this: Yesterday, 25,000 people died from hunger. Many were kids.

And hunger is preventable. What about things like cancer? Each year this disease kills 600,000, which equates to 69 people per hour. Or what about heart disease? Or COVID? Or diabetes?

Listen, I’m not trying to make you feel bad. I promise. Quite the contrary, I’m agreeing with you. Because, yes, this world is unfair. But this life shows no prejudice with its unfairness. Almost everyone is going through their own private hell right now.

Still, there is a tiny bright side to this pandemic mess. And I have been saving this part for last.

Back in the 1930s when the economy tanked and jobs were a myth, when the country fell into a Great Depression, people could have given up, moped around, and bitterly complained. But do you know what many Americans did instead?

They went dancing.

Yes. In a time when life expectancy was plummeting, and hunger was going up, and suicide was on a sharp rise, folks made their own fun. They started dancing like their pants were on fire. Towns threw big, fun bashes that would’ve made your prom look like a routine colonoscopy.

There were all-night dance contests in nearly every backwater, township, and major city across the nation. And when people couldn’t find any local dances, they threw parties of their own, scuffing up the floors in Mama’s living room.

Radio stations from Maine to California were broadcasting non-stop “musical dance hours.” Parents would waltz, brothers and sisters would foxtrot, Aunt Lucille and Uncle Ray Ray would two-step like lovebirds.

Radio ownership in the Depression skyrocketed. Which almost makes no logical sense when you think about it. But that’s what happened. Over 80 percent of U.S. homes owned radios by 1939. Dance music was, literally, everywhere.

This reminds me of my grandfather, who lived through the Depression. Like you, he didn’t get a prom, either. He dropped out of high school when his father died. He started doing a man’s work as a teenager. His brother got polio, his mother gave piano lessons to earn enough for supper.

And yet he danced. I have a picture of my baby-faced grandfather holding my brunette grandmother. The photograph was taken in some dancehall. They’re both on the pinewood floor, smiling wildly like two film stars.

They were about your age in this photo. And do you know what? They don’t look sad. In fact you’d never guess the world was crumbling by the looks on their faces. They appear downright hopeful.

These were two people who knew hunger. Two people who had occasionally gone barefoot. And yet they went dancing multiple times per week.

So I know this has been a tough year, and I’m on your side here. In fact, I’m just like you. Which is why I pray our mouths may never mistakenly claim that we have “nothing to look forward to.”

Because you and I really oughta count our blessings.

31 comments

  1. Verna Montgomery - December 29, 2020 6:49 am

    Thank You Sean…I loved this -And you know,I love everything you write!

    Reply
  2. oldlibrariansshelf - December 29, 2020 6:54 am

    Your essays are some of the best messages of faith out there! I would Dewey classify them 242.2.

    Reply
  3. David Parsons - December 29, 2020 10:15 am

    I’m recovering from by myself from Covid, Today is day 10. This is the absolute most timely and best thing you have ever written. I needed this

    Reply
  4. Ann - December 29, 2020 10:18 am

    Amen!! And Amen!…..the truth before your eyes……life does go on and we pray it will be better..

    Happy New Year!

    Reply
  5. Suzanne Brantley - December 29, 2020 12:06 pm

    Thank you, Sean for reminding us that there is always something to be thankful for and always something to look forward to!

    Reply
  6. Liz Bishop - December 29, 2020 12:31 pm

    Great perspective, Sean!
    Praying for a better day soon, but in the meantime, things for most of us could be so much worse🙏

    Reply
  7. Carol - December 29, 2020 1:03 pm

    I love your wise encouragement here!! Esp loved the dancing during the depression,,I did not know that! so good!

    Reply
  8. Georgeann Leavell - December 29, 2020 1:34 pm

    Thank you, Sean! You always hit the nail on the head!

    Reply
  9. Linda - December 29, 2020 1:39 pm

    Thanks Sean for your writings! Sending light & ❤️

    Reply
  10. Kate - December 29, 2020 1:46 pm

    To LIz, amen

    Reply
  11. Sarah - December 29, 2020 1:57 pm

    Thank you for lovingly speaking the truth.

    Reply
  12. walter buehler - December 29, 2020 2:25 pm

    Thank you for another inspirational messagd

    Reply
  13. Richard - December 29, 2020 2:27 pm

    Those dance marathons weren’t all that fun, especially for the dancers. Starving people danced because they got fed. Homeless people danced to get a place to sleep. They were cruel and a bizarre form of entertainment for the audiences. The fad faded out near the end of the 1930’s as many towns banned them. Then the War came……..

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dance_marathon

    Reply
  14. Carol Miller - December 29, 2020 2:56 pm

    Amen brother! My husband survived a heart attack this year so yes, this year hasn’t been bad to me! Inconvenient, yes but bad, no!!!

    Reply
  15. Summer & Johnny Hartzog - December 29, 2020 3:15 pm

    Excellent advice. 🙂

    Reply
  16. Katie Cunningham - December 29, 2020 4:26 pm

    AMEN!

    Reply
  17. Ernie Kelly - December 29, 2020 5:56 pm

    That was a long meander up a new sidewalk to the same old house. Enjoyed every step of it.

    Reply
  18. MAM - December 29, 2020 6:37 pm

    I needed a reminder to count my blessings! Thank you, Sean!

    Reply
  19. Linda Moon - December 29, 2020 6:47 pm

    Thank God my fun in the form of Dixieland Critter Getters didn’t cancel on me today. The Satan Creature who took up residency in my chimney for five days, including Christmas Day, is now gone! They did a better-than-fair job removing the creature who had fallen down, got stuck, and died inside my household residence. The removal of the dead creature was a Blessing that I’ll add to my Blessing-Count. And I hope it will one day reach your daily word-count of 2,345,538!

    Reply
  20. Susan Parker - December 29, 2020 8:50 pm

    I just posted this, as I do almost all your writing, on my page. Usually, Insay something like “Y’all don’t miss this one!” This time, Intold my friends I was hoping this girl’s parents and some of the other parents would organize a dance for the kids. Call it the first “Un-Prom”. What do you think? Depression-style ingenuity??

    Reply
  21. Bill - December 29, 2020 11:23 pm

    Don’t you have life to look forward to? Life can’t and will not always be fun…that’;s life.

    Reply
  22. Brenda - December 30, 2020 1:12 am

    Dear Sad Junior. Yes, try to replace your missed prom with a new positive happy memory. Your imagination and with the help of family and friend’s, like Sean, you have unlimited possibilities. Best of luck 2021!

    Reply
  23. Elizabeth - December 30, 2020 3:12 am

    Wow, Richard, what a way to be a Debbie Downer!

    Reply
  24. Cheryl - December 30, 2020 11:28 pm

    Amen, Sean, amen!!!

    Reply
  25. Joy Dollar - December 31, 2020 2:46 am

    Bravo, Sean! Well said!

    Reply
  26. Dru Brown - January 2, 2021 10:42 am

    Thanks to “The Waltons,” I knew that dance marathons didn’t always rock. But my parents and their friends loved dancing in the forties. The big bands fed their courage and confidence to fight Nazi Germany and Japan. And everyone prayed a lot. Prayer, work, and dance (solitary if necessary) could even help some of us survive coronaviruses and non-proms.

    Reply
  27. Janie F. - January 3, 2021 11:48 am

    Thanks Sean for these timely truths. Once again, you nailed it perfectly!

    Reply
  28. Mary Sirmon - January 3, 2021 1:08 pm

    Just reading today on what would have been my son’s 54th birthday. He has been dead 19 years. Covid is nothing compared to burying your three children. I have hope and joy through my Lord and Savior, Jesus. We always have something positive. I am thankful and blessed. Thank you Sean for the reminder.

    Reply
  29. Matilda Wille - January 3, 2021 2:12 pm

    Many years from now people will be looking at pictures of families playing board games, families biking and families hiking during a pandemic. The smiles on their faces will be just as big as Sean’s grandparents, even though those same people may have lost a loved one or a friend to Covid. We experience good days during bad times and bad days during good times. We are happy, we are sad, at any given time. It’s life. Thank God we have one.

    Reply
  30. Aunt Si or Martha Black - January 3, 2021 4:41 pm

    I grew up in a Pentecostal faith based family & yet as strict as our faith was taught we were somehow able to be “avid” dancers. We loved music of all sorts & dance frequently was practiced in our home throughout our lives and days because we knew far beyond everything else, happiness within often moves you further & joyfully throughout life & dance was one of the ways it expressed itself and spilies over. We didn’t wait for a particular ocassion to practice it. Why I’ve seen my mother spontaneously cut a step a two in a hot southern kitchen when just the right tune came wafting out of the radio. In fact, we even worked in a step or two in Church, Glory!
    Life IS hard, life IS short. My advice, spend more time contemplating joy than commisserating about circumstances. You might like to know…… the scriptures encourage “leaping” for joy. Get on with it…….

    Reply
  31. Margaret Agard - January 3, 2021 5:44 pm

    Makes me almost want to dance. But to do that I’d have to get up off my couch. By in my heart I’m dancing. Hoping that study that says imagining doing it is as good as doing it

    Reply

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