The Greatest Showman, the Power of Story, and God’s Circus

Two intellectually challenged adults were in front of Teckla and I when we went to buy tickets for the movie The Greatest Showman. The young man looked like he had Down’s Syndrome. The young woman seemed to have some speech impediments. The lady they had come with was buying tickets and popcorn.

It turned out we were in the same theater. They weren’t noisy, but we could tell they liked the movie. The movie, a musical version of P. T. Barnum and his circus, tells a story of man who made a place for “freaks”. He gave jobs to contortionists, tattooed men, a bearded lady, a little person. In this musical he also gives them dignity and family. Of course, this is probably a more politically correct celebration of diversity and inclusiveness than historically existed in Barnum’s circus, but I loved the movie—especially the big song and dance scenes. All dance scenes need elephants and lions!

But what happened at the end of the movie made me love it even more. As the credits rolled, we could hear the intellectually challenged woman gently sobbing. As we walked by them, we heard the young man saying, “It’s okay. I’m your wingman. I’m your wingman.” It moved me that she was so moved by the movie, and that he was so kind.

We headed to the restroom. While waiting for me, Teckla heard the young lady saying excitedly, “There is a place for us! There’s a place a for us!” She then walked up to Teckla and said, “March, March, March.” Her escort gathered her in and said, “Yes, the DVD comes out in March. I will get it for you.”

When I came out of the restroom, Teckla was in tears—moved by the woman’s declaration that there was a place for her. I was moved too and amazed at the ability of a story to create a place where we belong—where we have value. I have always believed in the power of stories, but this punched me in the heart. Here story-telling had the power to give a home to the wounded and excluded.

I also could not help thinking of church. I am part of motley crew at my little church—broken, breaking, healed, and healing. But at the end of each service, I hope we can say, “There is a place for us!” We are all God’s circus. We are all Jesus freaks. This is the power of God’s story.

About Mark

I live in Myrtle Point, Oregon with my wife Teckla and am the father of four boys. Currently I teach writing and literature at Southwest Oregon Community College. I am a graduate of Myrtle Point High School, Northwest Nazarene College, and have a Masters in English from Washington State University.
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