I lost the starring part in Our Town

To Linda, a girl not half as good as me,

Who kept her eyes down

For the whole tryout, and even stuttered.

When the cast was posted

And the high school drama coach

Saw me reading it through my tears,

He put an arm around me and said,

“Now, look—things are not always as they appear.

This is not Broadway;

It’s an educational institution.

We’re here for two reasons—to put on a show,

And, more important, to help people grow.

Someday you’ll see.”

So Linda played Emily,

And she didn’t even stutter.

And I was Third Woman at the Wedding,

Watching and wondering how he knew

What she could really do

If she had the chance.

Since then I have guessed that God,

Being a whole lot smarter

Than my high school drama coach, might be offstage sometimes

With an arm around a questioning cast:

“Now, don’t try to outguess me.

Sometimes the first shall be last

And the last shall be first,

And I’ve got my own reasons.

I need some strong ones to star

And some strong ones to stand back.

And I’m going to put out front

Some you might not choose,

But you’ll see what they can really do

When they have the chance.

Mortality is an educational institution.

We’ve got to put on the show,

And, too, we’ve got to help people grow.”

As I walk through the scenes,

Watch the costumes move,

And listen to the lines

Of the powerful, the weak,

The rich, the poor,

I look at the leads with less awe than most,

And at the spear-carriers with more.