In 1938, American playwright Thornton Wilder set to paper and stage “Our Town,” the story of a small community and the lives of its residents as depicted a little better than 100 years ago from 1901 to 1913.
Some things haven’t changed since then. If you’ve seen the play, you might remember it starts with one of its characters delivering the community’s newspaper.
“Our Town” is a poignant story in which Emily, one of the central characters, dies giving birth to her second child. In the play, Emily is seen joining others from the town who have passed on and who advise her it is best she forget all about her former life.
Emily ignores their warnings and decides to re-live just one day of her previous life – her 12th birthday. It turns out to be an exceptionally frustrating experience because her newfound perspective forces her to realize just how much the living take life for granted. Too late, she understands how much life should be valued “every, every minute,” as she puts it. Too late does she understand how easy it is to squander our most precious resource – time — to let life slip by while we’re investing more of it than we should worrying about the future or feeling pangs of guilt about some best-forgotten indiscretion of the long-ago past.
The set for the play is extremely simple, with actors pantomiming many of their actions. One of the characters is the stage manager who introduces other characters in the beginning and is available later for Emily to ask if anyone realizes the value of life in everyday experiences while they live it. “No,” he responds, simply. “The saints and poets, maybe – they do some.”
It is a true statement. We, too, are often guilty of not appreciating what we have in our town and the value of the relationships that make up our day-to-day lives. It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of it all and not take time to consider just how fortunate we are to live where we do.