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May 1, 2014

The day an audience disappeared

Did I ever tell you about the time I was scheduled to address a crowd at a museum and nobody showed up?

It’s true!

I was left sitting there by myself, waiting for an audience to appear — with chagrin on my face.

Forget the hour’s drive or the publicity which surrounded the event. Forget all the preparation and expectation. Forget the refreshments which went virtually untouched at the hospitality table.

I did fill up with coffee, more for nerve control than enjoyment. The cake wasn’t bad, either.

“This is so embarrassing,” remarked the curator. “I could have sworn you would have attracted a crowd, given your vast resume as a photographer.”

Fifty years worth, be it the camera club circuit, judging, photo journalism and weddings. I covered it all — exhibits, commissions, publications, even pets. One dog fined me a mouthful for taking too long.

I later found out the wrong date had appeared for my appearance and a more conducive crowd turned up at the rescheduling. Not a word was mentioned to the audience. But every time it crosses my mind, I can’t help but smile.

We live and die by audiences, whether it’s a concert, lecture or theater production. The more people who show up, the more successful our venue becomes.

If you’ve ever seen the movie, it did my heart good to see Forest Gump address thousands of observers during a peace rally at the Washington Monument. People were hollering and jumping for joy at his corny remarks. Anyway, it left me with an indelible imprint.

It bothers me when a sparse crowd turns out for a significant event in my church like a genocide commemoration or Independence Day celebration. I won’t get into specifics or preach to a choir over it, but I’m left wondering about it, even appalled when only a dozen people show up for an anniversary.

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