Queen for a Day

In the mid 1950s there was a radio and tv show called “Queen for a Day.”  I don’t remember too much about it, but do recall the basic thrust.  It was part of that era’s fascination with game shows.  Often there was a pot of money or some other big prize to win.  That show usually had mostly women contestants and, I suspect, a bigger female audience.

The host of the show would begin by asking, “would you like to be queen for a day?”  Of course, the answer would be affirmative.  And then the host would interview the various contestants and at the end of the show the audience would vote one of them to be queen for a day.  I don’t recall many details. But it often was true the stories of the women contestants were sad and touching.

This reminds me of another show at the same time period, namely, The Millionaire.  In this show unsuspecting people were give a million dollars (a huge sum in 1950s currency) and see how a fortune changed lives for better or for worse.  That show had an amazing impact on how people often would express their desire for instant wealth.  Perhaps our contemporary culture’s fascination with the lottery is comparable.

It is funny and sad to see people live with what I would call an “if only…” mentality.  This perspective is not limited to wistful longings to be on a tv show and be the winner or suddenly to have someone drop out of the sky and hand us a million bucks.  We can see this mentality present in people’s lives in ordinary and extraordinary ways.  I have seen it when someone is diagnosed with lung cancer and laments, “if only I had not smoked.”  It is not unusual to hear a student’s cry, “if only I had studied a little…”

As a kid, I remember people asking each other, “so if you were queen (king) for a day, what would you do?”  We see versions of that in our own day around the lottery.  Or sometimes we see it when a high school or college super-athlete gets a huge signing bonus---becoming instant millionaires.  It is not unusual that they go buy a really fancy, expensive car.  They choose a status symbol like that which is an attempt to say, “look at me; I am somebody!”

I see these kinds of shows and, even, the appeal of the lottery as a way of inducing us to dream of a life different from the one we currently have.  Too many folks I know spend time wanting to be someone else.  In effect, they are saying, “if only…”  I certainly understand the appeal of fantasy.  Who would not want a perfect life?  Maybe money or fame would bring us closer.  But I doubt it.

I doubt it because fantasy is never real.  Fantasy is make-believe.  I understand it as entertainment, but when it is mistaken for reality or for hope, trouble looms.  Fantasy does not work because basically it is an escape.  Rather than being reality, fantasy is an escape from reality.  It is interesting the show only offered a chance to be queen for a day!  Why not a week, a year or the rest of my life?  To be queen for a day and then return to reality only seems disruptive to me.

Beneath all this I see a spiritual issue.  Spirituality is always a reality-based undertaking.  Let’s compare being queen for a day and the opportunity to be spiritual for a lifetime.  They both offer riches.  But they are very different kinds of riches.  Typically, to be queen for a day offers some kind of financial reward.  Spirituality offers the treasure of deep meaning and purpose.  One is a resource that will be spent down and the other is a resource that can never be exhausted.  In fact, like love the spiritual resource only increases.  Spiritually, the rich do get richer!

Being queen for a day almost never transforms your life.  You are still the same person, but with money or a new car.  Being spiritual should not only change you, but also transform you into a better and bolder person.  Instead of queen for a day, you become a child of God for a lifetime.  Spirituality is a long-term investment with a huge upside and an optimistic outcome---regardless of the process that we may have to go through.

Finally, a big difference between being queen for a day and being spiritual is who wins.  On the tv show there was only one winner.  The rest of the folks were audience---were being entertained.  They spend a half hour of their day watching someone else get rich!  And their lives never changed and no transformation happened.  Becoming spiritual, however, offers everyone a chance to be a winner.  In fact, spirituality is not a spectator sport.  It is not entertaining.  And it’s not a game.  It is real and for real.

I don’t mind watching some tv.  But I don’t want to be queen for a day.  I am trying to be spiritual instead.  

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