I grew up in the middle of Brooklyn, NY, so I missed out on the whole trees and flowers thing until much later. But there were some advantages to being in NY. My parents brought me to see quite a few plays, shows and films – mostly those for kids, but some others as well. Among them, I got to see the live Broadway version of West Side Story, which made a huge impression on my pre-adolescent heart and soul.
Just last week, I went to hear my stepson’s high school band concert, which included a couple of songs from the show – “Tonight” and “Maria”. Beautiful songs, but neither is my favorite. That would be the song that is sung twice, and that in the film version dominated the ending of the story – “Somewhere”. The story of Tony and Maria ended tragically. And when I first saw the show, in 1959, it could only have ended that way. And yet, that song has lyrics that promise hope for the future, hope for a time and a place that seemed impossible back then.
There’s a place for us,
A time and place for us.
Hold my hand and we’re halfway there.
Hold my hand and I’ll take you there
That “someday” has arrived. And the somewhere is here, and it is most places. People can marry the person they love, whether they are the same race or ethnicity or not. It is no longer, as it once was, a scandal or an outrage or even illegal. If the composer of West Side Story had known that “Someday” gay people could get married, he would have been incredulous and joyful.
The world today (as President Obama just said at Howard University) is better than it was. Yes, we might only still be halfway there, but we are moving in the right direction. Trump and his followers? The last-ditch resistance to the acceptance of love as the wonderful unifying force that changes the world
When Jesus came to us, he preached this. He told us that the Kingdom of God is at hand, that we are not stuck in an unchanging static world, that we can make it better, that it should be better, that it will be better. He told us, all of us, sinners, the poor, the rejected, the despised, that there is a place for us, a place in Heaven and a place on Earth, maybe not in the present, but in the future, and that prophesy has come true. He told us “Hold my hand, and I’ll take you there”, and so many of us have done that and have seen the glory of God’s love.
Yes, there is progress. This world, this reality we know and study, is full of progress, and always has been. We humans have progressed in my lifetime, and throughout history. And for those who deny that evolution has a progressive direction, like the late great Stephen J. Gould, I can only say, please look at the evidence. I know that most living creatures are still bacteria – that is not the point. At one time there were no organisms made of more than one cell, and now there are. At one time, there were no creatures with brains, and now there are. At one time there were no birds, rabbits, lions, or cuddly cats and faithful dogs, and now there are. And at one time there were no people, nothing that could write blog posts, or read or cry or laugh or tell stories. Now there are. Some deny that this is progress. But I know that it is.
We aren’t there yet; we don’t even know what “there” is. But what matters is that we are moving in the right direction. Tony and Maria today are married, and watching their oldest child graduate college. Seated around them, other parents are crying and applauding, and they are all the colors of humanity, all mixed together, celebrating the wonderful onward march of their families toward that better Somewhere and Someday that await us all.