Sherrylee and I saw a delightful movie last night, Dustin Hoffman’s directing debut film Quartet. The story revolves around about fifty residents of a state-run retirement home in England. All of these residents were once renowned musicians, but are now reduced to trying in their dotage to put on a gala fundraiser to save their home.
What makes this film unique among a growing number of films about paleo-aged people is that it is not about dying, not about dealing with long-term disease, and not really about dealing with a world that has passed them by. It is about living!
One day the most famous operatic star (Maggie Smith) of her time steps out of the minivan to enter the home. She brings her reputation as a diva as well as her personal history into an established group of her former peers, which stirs up old rivalries as well as old passions.
Her colleagues need her to recreate her part in the Quartet from Rigoletto by Verdi, along with one patient whose mind is slipping (Pauline Collins), one who continually crosses social boundaries of propriety (Billy Connolly), and her ex-husband (Tom Courtenay)—and therein lies the tale.
You’ll laugh, cry, be mildly embarrassed, but mostly be touched by the joy, the love, the drama of these extraordinarily talented people. And you will love the music!
What do we do with old missionaries? Sorry, I couldn’t help but going to this question.
Most of the old missionaries that I know have gone down one of three paths:
- The most fortunate old missionaries have found a Christian college that gives them an office and an occasional class, where they can share what they have learned and experienced with students barely able to appreciate it.
- Some are able to preach for a church—usually a small, rural church. These churches are often older people, so they don’t mind the slower pace of an older preacher—and they don’t mind the stories of other places.
- Some just vanish! Yes, they just disappear.
- Occasionally they quietly return to their foreign home, where they work very quietly, living on social security checks or very small support from many small churches who remember their reputation for greatness. And they live there until they die.
- Others vanish in the States. They have no retirement, maybe not even social security since they lived out of the country for so long. They live with children or on charity. I’ve heard that a few Christian retirement homes make places for them.
We have finally awakened to the need for missionary care, both for those workers currently on the field and those who have recently returned, but are we not missing a great opportunity to draw on years of experience and continents full of wisdom and hearts full of love for lost souls?
In Quartet, these ancient musicians pooled their remaining talents and produced a splendid evening of entertainment.
What would God’s people do if our ancient missionaries’ talents were pooled? What could we learn? What would we attempt? Where would we go? How much faith would there be in that room?
Enough to move mountains!