This week, I was reminded of the power of vision to inspire others to carry on, even when the leader is no longer there to stoke the flames. I wanted to share that insight into the power of a vision of service, by telling the story of The Christmas Schooner, a musical performed by TesserAct Theatre Ensemble at its Sponsors’ Gala evening on Monday, November 29th. As one of the sponsors, Painting in Partnership’s thirty guests helped usher in the Holiday Season in style. What a touching and inspiring performance!
Having never seen the musical, I did not quite know what to expect. I knew that the play was based on the true story of a schooner named the Rouse Simmons that made the trek from upper Michigan to Chicago, in late Novembers, over 100 years ago, in order to bring Christmas trees to the area population. It became known as the Christmas Schooner.
In the play, the captain of the Rouse Simmons, whose name is Peter, was inspired to ferry Christmas trees into Chicago by a letter that Martha had sent to his family complaining that folks in Chicago were deprived of the full enjoyment of Christmas by not having an adequate supply of evergreens. Being a good businessman, Peter knew that there was a profit opportunity in those trees. However, it was also clear that Peter was motivated by something beyond that: spreading the Christmas spirit to the folks in Chicago. After the first trip, he was hooked! He had seen firsthand the impact of his journey on the population and he enrolled his family in supporting the effort, in spite of the fact his wife was fearful of his sailing on lake Michigan at that time of year.
That support was to be put to test when, during the next year’s voyage, a violent storm sank the Rouse Simmons (in 1912) and Peter perished. Despite their grief and hurt, Peter’s wife and son decided that Peter’s legacy had to carry on, so they did and, for many more years (until 1920), a schooner would set anchor at the Clark street pier to deliver its precious cargo.
I have long been an advocate for the power of a vision of service. I believe that God sewed the seeds in each of us for a vision of how to make life better around us. When we choose to act on that vision, it causes others to join in and add momentum towards its ultimate fulfillment.