Back in 2019 after seeing the Broadway musical “Dear Evan Hansen” I posted an article about the lessons from the musical. One could easily attribute the issues confronted in the musical to the angst of adolescence and about learning how to deal with these issues.
But I now realize that these lessons are life-long issues—they are just more dramatic during adolescence and the emotions needed to deal with them then are often more exposed. So, it is appropriate to relook at the lessons and add an additional adult perspective. The songs are noted below and the “adult-based” comments are in italics.
Anybody have a map? – The two mothers in the play lament how difficult parenting can be, especially with teenagers who are troubled. Parenting is not an innate ability, and parents need constant assistance from family, friends and professionals. In many ways we do fly blind through this process. There is no specific map per se, only the willingness to learn from each day and from each interaction to love and relate in meaningful ways with our children. By being that safe, stable nurturing relationship, we are on the right path. But every day is different with its unique challenges. (I would contend that map of life does not necessarily become clearer or less complicated during the aging process. We have so many twists and turns along the journey that the ability to engage in life-long learning and adapt to change is critical.)
Waving from a window – Sung by Evan Hansen, this powerful song describes the emotions of an outsider (waving from the window, tapping on the glass, not being heard by anyone, nobody waving back, staying out of the sun since you only get burned). These feelings can leave unreconcilable pain for the individual unless we are willing to reach out to such people, by recognizing their pain and seeking to help them. (The pain of isolation can be felt at so many stages in our lives so we need to be ready to see how we can help others. At times, we need to assist others in ways we might not even imagine or that they envision that they need. Our eyes need to be wide open.)
For forever– Evan describes a perfect day – two friends enjoying each other’s company, sharing stories and feelings, and taking in a beautiful sunlit, cloudless day. Unfortunately for Evan, this was his fantasy since he was on the outside and did not have such a dear friend. (Often, we can hope for certain situations or outcomes, yet they do not exist. Such dreaming isn’t necessarily bad and even be healthy at times. Yet, it might reflect the need for unrecognized assistance.)
Sincerely, me– Evan, with the help of Jared, goes about creating a false narrative of his friendship with the deceased teen, Connor, who committed suicide. This series of emails would allow him to show how he had been friends with Connor when in fact they were only mere acquaintances. Evan is starting to spin a web of deceit that will only come back to haunt him. (I think we all can empathize with people that want to create positive scenarios in their lives. When we see these scenarios lacking in reality, we need to avoid confrontation and proceed with caution to provide the necessary support).
Requiem – The parents and sister of Connor are so angry at Connor that they are not ready to acknowledge their grief from his suicide, that they will sing no requiem. Forgiveness is the most difficult task in our lifetimes and evolves over time with our own emotional intelligence. Their emotions are understandable but hopefully will change over time as they understand the emotional anguish that Connor was dealing with. (Anger and bitterness often cloud our ability to seek and extend forgiveness, The forgiveness journey of our lives is a difficult one that involves our willingness to seek understanding, to extend understanding and to accept our own vulnerability—indeed one of the most difficult aspects of adulthood.)
If I could tell her– Evan tells Zoe, Connor’s sister, how much Connor admired her. But this admiration was not based in fact and actually reflected Evan’s view of Zoe. Evan had a crush on Zoe and always hoped that they could be friends. He is starting to dig a bigger hole of deception and will suffer from his increasing number of lies. The cost of lies is serious. (Lies can be our personal downfall and erode the social trust in our society. Trust in each other and our leaders is based on facts and truth. Facts and truth are imperative. Plus, we can start to believe our own lies.)
Disappear – This number reminds us that no one deserves to be forgotten; no one deserves to fade away; no one deserves to disappear. Everyone deserves to be seen and embraced and loved. (One should never be forgotten, at any age, and it is our duty to engage others as much as possible, even when we might be uncomfortable. Shared humanity carries an awesome responsibility.)
You will be found– This showstopper makes me tingle every time I hear it, and I have listened to it many times since seeing the play. As the main theme in the song notes (“Even when the dark comes crashin’ through, when you need a friend to carry you, and when you’re broken on the ground, you will be found”), there is always hope and loved ones to help when all else seems lost and nothing can be done. YOU WILL BE FOUND is an absolutely beautiful anthem to the human spirit, whether broken or not, and the powers of restoration. (The dark can come crashing through for any of us; we all need friends to carry us at times; oftentimes we are broken on the ground; yet there is always the hope of “being found”, cared for and helped. Despair can hopefully be replaced with the restoration or rejuvenation of the human spirit.)
To break in a glove – Evan’s father left him when he was young, and Evan desperately seeks a father figure. Connor’s father shows him how to break in a baseball glove (it happened to be Connor’s never-used glove) but the intended lesson is to be patient and do things the right way. The irony here is that Connor’s father is giving him some fatherly advice (Evan did not have a significant father role model) but at the same time Evan is spinning an even denser web of lies to boost his status and well-being. Again, the cost of lies is serious. (We must always recognize that our advice to others might be ignored. Our advice might be misplaced or off target. So, let’s be sincere with our advice and try to understand the situation at hand.)
Only us – This hauntingly pleasing duet by Evan and Zoe highlights the wonderful life they now share as dear friends (boy-friend/girl-friend). All of the pain and suffering that they have endured individually and jointly has melted away. Yet, this is only a façade—Evan’s lies are about to be revealed and bring all of this happiness to an end. Love is beautiful but only when lived with integrity. (Integrity should be our guiding light in adulthood. It avoids deception and treats others with the proper respect. When love is expressed with integrity, it is a thing a beauty and the reflection of a greater spirit.)
Good for you – Evan’s lies have been revealed and he is openly chastised for getting what he wanted at everyone else’s expense. He is crushed and his world comes crashing down. (Lies do have consequences, and we must be prepared to be accountable. Lies tend to be accepted more from teenagers but are still unacceptable at any age. We never outgrow our responsibility to be truth-tellers.)
Words fail – We have all been in the position where words do not adequately describe the emotions of the moment—either when everything seems perfect or when our world is collapsing around us. Evan’s honest assessment of his lies and the admittedly imperfect reasons for the lies will lead to his continued introspection and hopefully personal growth going forward. Even though words fail, they are still are best method for meaningful communication. (Introspection will often reveal the harsh facts—that we are accountable for our lies, that words are often an inadequate salve for the hurt that our lies or harsh actions have caused, and that time along with sincerity and humility will be the only course of action that can heal going forward. Yes, words can be inadequate to express ourselves but only through communication can the healing process begin or proceed.)
So big/so small – Evan’s mother chronicles the time that Evan’s father moved out and left the two of them to make a life for themselves. She readily admits her shortcomings since then, currently and probably in the future. But she pledges that she is now there for him, no matter what happens. (On a personal note, having been in a similar situation as a child, this song still brings tears to my eyes.) (It can be easy to see our shortcomings and even see a potential path forward but following that requires our constant vigilance. And there will be steps forward and steps backward but overall, we can go forward in a positive way.)
In the finale, we see that Evan can envision a way forward with help and support. In some ways his redemption is conditional and will require significant effort and assistance from friends and loved ones. (Adulthood offers a similar path. We have the opportunity to move forward with help and support. Citizens care for each other and that’s our duty in the years ahead.)
I see that our job is to continually seek to understand others—and to understand that appearances can be deceiving. We might need to gently peer behind the curtain so that we can understand the angst of our fellow citizens and seek to help in any way possible. We don’t want anyone to disappear and we want everyone to be found. (Amen.)