I’d be lying if I said that I jumped at the opportunity to take a role in my first ever elementary school play. The truth is, I didn’t want a role. But my fourth grade teacher at Cedar Grove Elementary School in San Jose, California, Mr. Paratore, insisted that I play a Russian dancer in the school’s winter play of The Nutcracker. I had two lines, “I was a Russian dancer? You’re kidding!” I recall having to wear a red long-sleeved turtleneck and black pants.
We performed at Quimby Oak Junior High in front of a packed house.
While I can’t remember the name of the second and only other play I performed in at the second elementary school I attended (Holly Oak), I do recall that it featured an auctioneer, a wise gentleman, a young boy, and a donkey — played by yours truly. I had no lines.
Other than the stellar performance by my good friend, Dow Escalante, and a few songs performed by our choir, I can’t remember much else. However, I do recall being asked to walk up to the microphone, after the play, to introduce myself, which proved a little embarrassing since I had to tiptoe to speak into it.
Again, we performed at Quimby Oak Junior High to a packed house.
During those days I didn’t have the courage to take a lead role in any of the plays, so I always admired people like my friend Dow. He always performed for the people, and he always did a darn good job.
I’ve had the pleasure of going to school with Dow at all levels: elementary, junior high, and high school. My only regret is that I never saw him perform at Independence High School. I’m not sure why I ignored theater, but I’ve tried to make up for it ever since.
Dow and I weren’t best friends, but we certainly were good friends, and I enjoyed spending time with him. He was and is what I would refer to as a gentle giant. We shot hoops in his driveway, and spent several afternoons playing the board game Battleship. The good old days without electronics.
By junior high, we would chat on occasion — usually in passing. When all social studies students were assigned to memorize and recite the Preamble to the Constitution, Dow mentioned that he was going to sing it. I wasn’t in his class, so I don’t know if he ever did. Nevertheless, I’m sure his rendition of “We the People …” was captivating.
Today, my good friend lives in Missouri with his lovely family. And while we are separated by more than 1,800 miles, Dow would be the first one to tell you that no matter the distance, friendships are always connected through God’s reach. It’s an exciting time for them and the community in which they live. Dow is a man of faith, family, and community, and this Sunday, January 29, is the grand opening of Lakeside Christian Church — where he is the Lead Pastor.
When I chatted with him earlier this evening, he indicated that hate has become too prevalent these days, so he and others will continue to build on the message of love — as Jesus would love. He also said that he’s anxious and excited to see all that God will do through and among the people of Lakeside Christian Church and the community it serves.
On the lobby wall of the church a volunteer painted this message of unity, compassion, and love:
You belong here.
Assuredly, with Dow at the helm, there was never any doubt.by