“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.” Jaques in “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare

Miss Corey, my sophomore English teacher in fall 1965, included William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” in her fall curriculum. She selected readers from our class, which provoked hilarious responses to our mispronunciation of the text.

That experience endeared me to Shakespeare’s remarkable works. For one brief season, I thought it would be fun to act in a Shakespeare play, speak his fluffy Elizabethan language with passion. Yet, my mind went blank when I stood before an audience.

Therefore, Mr. Edwards, my sophomore drama teacher, assigned me a brief soliloquy to memorize. For several weeks within my drama classroom, I recited my monologue to fellow students, blinded by the spotlight.

My senior year, Mrs. Andrews, our new drama teacher, suggested I take the role of prompter for our school plays.

Her creative alternative also proved beneficial, particularly when the lead actor forgot a line in “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder.

Almost a lifetime later, having fulfilled Shakespeare’s ages of the schoolgirl, lover, soldier (mother), and currently justice (grandmother), I don’t remember a word from my speech into the spotlight. Perhaps I’d find some wisdom as “the sixth age shifts into the lean and slippered pantaloons, with spectacles on nose and pouch on side.”

Nor do I remember the lines I prompted from “Our Town”.

However, more significantly, my teachers equipped me with understanding and acceptance of my limitations and talents. Both are inseparable parts of our broken, human condition, no matter our age.

As Mr. Edwards and Mrs. Andrews illustrated the power of creative alternatives to transform disabilities into achievements, so I aim to encourage others.

Now, as the sixth age of Shakespeare’s man blooms within my bones, I commit my days to humankind’s highest purpose: to encourage the discovery and development of a person’s God-given gifts and talents. No matter their age.

Remember Grandma Moses.

My heart and hands find neighbors, family and friends who’ve entered the seventh age, the “Last scene of all.” The age that “ends this strange, eventful history, is second childishness…sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything,”

I understand the context of Shakespeare’s metaphor. However, the world’s remarkably more than a stage. Earth and mankind are God’s creation. Ordered by His Word. Dynamic. Never vacant. We’re not just merely players in different stages of life from birth to death who eventually perish, stripped of “everything.”

Rather, we’re created in God’s image to be His companions: loving, eternal beings who inherit the Kingdom of God. Mothers, fathers, children, siblings, grandparents, praising God and caring for one another. Sometimes children for parent, or parent for child. Wife for husband, or the opposite, until our last breath.

Or, perchance a man like Mr. Edwards or a woman like Mrs. Andrews who teaches us how to rise above our limitations.

Contact Iris at irisfarmletters@gmail.com