Recently, I heard that a DVD series has been released commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Ed Sullivan Show in New York. The series features appearances of all the musical and comic acts that Ed Sullivan featured on his weekly Sunday night television program. Among those featured is Erich Brenn.
Erich Brenn is the guy that Ed Sullivan would present whose talent was spinning all of those dinner plates simultaneously on the stage.
I remember as a 9-year-old boy watching this feat with fascination. Imagine, keeping all of those plates spinning without them falling off and breaking.
This became a metaphor for the multi-tasking life that was to come for me.
If you are in your 40s, 50s or 60s, you may find yourself metaphorically spinning a lot of plates in your life. There's your career, your family, your children, financially supporting kids who are in college, or helping to financially support elderly relatives in their homes, assisted living, nursing homes or medical foster care homes. Right now, I pay one thousand dollars a month to help my mother-in-law to stay in her home with the assistance of visiting home care aids.
I know that I am not unique. There are a lot of other people with the same challenge. The other obstacle is that although my mother-in-law has insurance, the time it takes for reimbursement and the institutional barriers that are presented to you become insurmountable. The Affordable Care Act (ACA ) has not addressed this concern of reimbursement in home care in a timely fashion.
I find that there are times that I ask myself, "How long do I have to keep spinning these plates?" I have a full-time job, and a part-time job along with some other sideline projects. What more can I be expected to do ? What if I can't keep all of the plates spinning without having them crash to the ground in pieces ?
I remember in the late Spring 1993 I was attending a United States Coast Guard Indoctrination Course for Navy Chaplains at Governor's island, NY. It was great to be in New York City. One afternoon I was jogging around Governor's Island and I came upon this view of the World Trade Center, the twin towers. They looked majestic, but they also looked vulnerable. How prophetically true that would prove to be.
One afternoon, we were told that there would be a memorial service for Pat Nixon, former first lady in the Governor's Island Chapel.
I decided to skip the service. My spiritual journey instead would lead me to the Governor's Island Ferry over to Battery Park, to the Number Two Subway up to West 53rd Street and then a walk over to Broadway to the Ed Sullivan Theater.
I wanted to get into the taping of the Late Show with David Letterman, but I didn't have a ticket. I waited outside the theater and finally someone gave me a ticket. The security people tried to come after me, but I got into the theater. Jerry Seinfeld was the guest that night along with Paul Schaeffer and his band who were great.
I didn't realize that the Ed Sullivan Theater was so small. I was sitting in the balcony right behind the sound board and I looked at this small stage and I thought The Beatles,The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, Aretha Franklin, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson And The Miracles, The Four Tops, The Mamas And The Papas, Topo Gigio and Erich Brenn all performed on this very same stage.
Yes, it was a holy moment, one that I think was far more rewarding than Pat Nixon's memorial service at Governor's Island Chapel. I remember that I told my fellow Chaplains that I got to see the taping of David Letterman. They referred to me as "Broadway Bauer" for the rest of the United States Coast Guard Chaplain's Course.
I thought about all of this again with the closure of Late Night With David Letterman after thirty-three years of broadcasting that show. David Letterman along with Ed Sullivan is leaving another legacy. We'll see what Stephen Colbert does in September when his show premieres in this same theater.
I'm still struck with the picture of Erich Brenn spinning all of those plates on stage. How long do I have to keep spinning? How long do you have to keep spinning?
May life continue to be a great and rewarding journey for all of us. May we know how many plates we can spin and not end up trying to spin too many at one time or all at once.
May we not "wipe-out," but may we find balanced within us and without us now and always.