The second was me myself back in the 1970s asking my own parents what it was like to have gone to high school back in the 1950s! For just as kids today have 1990s day, and just as my kids had dressed up for 1970s day, even so we had all dressed up for 1950s day.
We really were enthralled with the 1950s back in the 1970s. To begin with, we had all grown up watching the situational comedy called Happy Days on television. And then, while we were in high school, the movie Grease, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, came out. We all had the songs to the movie’s accompanying soundtrack, along with the accompanying images from the movie, burned into our collective psyche.
These days, when I periodically catch the movie Grease on television, I take a few minutes to relive some of the memories associated with it. I enjoy the general nostalgia associated with the music. It reminds me of a time in my life when I was much younger - and all that goes with such times in a person’s life. And I still wonder what high school was like for my father and my mother.
But nowadays, when I watch a movie, I tend to pay more attention to the details. I tend to focus on a movie’s themes, as explored and conveyed in its writing, especially its dialogue.
Accordingly, I find that there is one particular scene in Grease that speaks volumes to me, even at this point in my life. (Spoiler Alert! For those who have not seen the movie, the following paragraphs give away the plot!)
The main characters, a greaser named Danny Zuko and a sweet Australian girl named Sandy Olsson, have met and fallen in love while in high school. About halfway through the movie, the two of them are on a date at the “Frosty Palace” when, weary of hearing Danny make fun of all the local jocks for the umpteenth time, Sandy confronts him with a rather jolting question: “Well, other than make fun of others, just what all have you done?!” (My paraphrase.)
Stung by this question, Danny tries out for basketball, wrestling, and baseball; but only winds up getting into fights with the various athletes he so detests. Eventually, however, at the suggestion of his coach, he settles on cross-country running and manages to sufficiently impress Sandy.
Nonetheless, it isn’t until later in the movie that he stumbles upon his true gift. The members of his gang, the “T-Birds”, are all supporting one of their own in a one-on-one hot-rod race for the “pinks” (pink slips or ownership papers). At the last minute, his friend who owns the car is knocked unconscious. As a result, Danny is forced to take the wheel and run the race, which he manages to win, securing himself both personal glory and his own set of wheels!
If you think about it, the question with which Sandy confronted Danny - “Just what have you done?” - is a question we all probably need to be asked on occasion. And the plain truth is that the more this question troubles us, the less likely we are to have done and thus, the more likely we are to need it to be asked of us!
I love the story Jesus Christ once told called the “Parable of the Talents”. It is recorded in the New Testament gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, verse 14-30. You can read it in full here: https://biblehub.com/kjv/matthew/25.htm.
The essence of Jesus’ story is that a master endows three of his servants with an assortment of talent each according to his respective ability. The word “talent” is an ancient Greek term for a weight of gold equaling around 75 pounds. But for the purposes of the story, the play on words in English is quite apropos.)
In any event, the master then goes away for a time, telling each of them to put their various amounts of talents to work on his behalf. After some time, the master then returns and calls each servant to accountability for what he has done with that with which he had been entrusted.
As the story makes plain, two servants have worked hard with the talent with which they have been entrusted, and have each produced an increase. They find that they are rewarded by the master. Conversely, the third servant was slothful, and simply buried his talent in the back yard. Thus, when the master returns, this last servant has no increase to show for the time that he has had the talent entrusted to him. As we might expect, at the conclusion of the story, this last servant is punished rather than rewarded.
This powerful and pointed story raises one fundamental question: “Just what are you and I doing with the talent we have each been given?!” Let that sink in for a moment. Better yet, let it jolt you like Sandy’s question did to Danny in the movie! And if it makes you uncomfortable, then all the better! For this may just show how much you needed to be asked this very question!
Jesus was right! Everything we have is on loan from God, including our abilities! And one day, He will call us all to account for what we did with what we had! For my part, what I hope to hear is “Well done, good and faithful servant!’’ But I know that for this to happen, I need to be busy using my talents for God’s glory! With His help, I am trying.
What about you? “Just what have you done?!”