Originally published as an editorial in the Orlando Sentinel on April 6, 2011.
The Broadway musical “Wicked” recently concluded a successful run in Orlando, offering an essential question about our humanity.
In the opening song, Glinda, the good witch of the north, presents the musical’s thematic exploration with the following questions concerning Elphaba, the wicked witch of the west: “Are people born wicked? Or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?” Her questions are a reflection on Elphaba’s campaign to prevent the wizard’s fascist exclusion of talking animals.
To retain power, the wizard convinces the people of Emerald City that Elphaba is really a wicked witch, an easy task because of her green skin, crooked nose and black hat. A little girl named Dorothy from Kansas threatens to thwart both Elphaba and the wizard’s power struggle, but Elphaba proves the hero, teaching the audience that artificially contrived wickedness can be overcome, internal wickedness must be tamed and standing for the voiceless is a worthy endeavor to do both.
Lessons abound from this musical for how our community cares for the poor. Some are apt to paint the plight of the poor as a decision of their own making, a wicked disease from which our community will never escape. Ironically, it is the wicked witch of the west who demonstrates what it means to stand for the voiceless for the sake of the common good.
Numerous ministries and charities do just that, day in and day out. Many services have fallen away during these economically lean times as donors have had less to give. Yet, innovative fundraising techniques have emerged and foundations have stretched their endowments to meet the increasing needs. The recent uptick in employment gives many hope for an improving economy. A stronger economy will only increase the ability of generous Central Floridians to support these efforts.
First Baptist Church of Orlando has set an amazing example, raising more than $5 million for homeless families. Individuals are stepping up in ways never seen with an internal outrage saying that something must be done. IDignity and the Christian Service Center, two organizations with which I serve, are pushing harder to keep families from tottering over the financial edge. These efforts are done in the spirit of Elphaba, who refuses to back down and is motivated by certain eternal truths: People matter; families need housing; to whom much is given, much is expected.
As we face the reality of our Emerald City, which is improving, may we recognize that timeless truth with which Central Floridians certainly agree: There is no place like home.