I Am

            Last night my youngest son, Miles and I went to New York City to see a magic show that was much, much more than a dazzling display of how-did-he-do—that tricks. The magician is Derrick Delgaudio. Since July his show In and Of Itself has been playing in a small theatre near Union Square.

            Derrick is a world-class magician. Twice he was voted by his peers to be the top magician. In his current show, Derrick doesn’t do a trick until about ten minutes into his performance. He begins the show by standing alone beneath a single spotlight on an otherwise darkened stage. His first words are “I am”. In the course of about 90 minutes, Derrick tells six stories that are all in some way about him. He relates an amazing tale he heard in a bar many years earlier about a man that played Russian Roulette more than once and survived. He shared deeply about his childhood with a story about his Mom. Interspersed between his stories he did magic tricks that left Miles and I staring at each other in wonder and with broad smiles on our faces. Wearing a blindfold, he did a card trick where he ended up dealing cards face up, in order from the Ace to the Two card right up to the King by suit—diamonds first, then spades, then hearts and finally clubs.

            As Miles and I entered the theatre, we found a wall of cards. The cards were white with black lettering at the top reading “I am”. Beneath each card were words like: a baker, a chemist, a good Christian, the life of the party, or the black sheep of the family. There were a thousand cards on display. Every person was asked to select a card; first search carefully for the card that best captured your identity. I walked the length of wall before I found one. When I saw I thought, “That’s me.” I grabbed it and walked into the theatre. An usher took my card, as she did with all the cards, handed back the top of the card with the words “I am” on it and kept the part with words that captured me.

            At the end of the performance, Derrick asked everyone who selected a card and who did so with some thought to stand up. About 40 people stood, out of a crowd of nearly 150. I stood; while my son Miles stayed seated.  As a joke, he had selected “I am a meteorologist”. Walking up the center aisle, Derrick turned to each standing person and looked them right in the eyes and told them what they were. “You’re a rock star,” he said to one. To a man, he nodded, “Congratulations, you’re a good Dad.” Pointing at a middle-age lady, Derrick called, “Hey everyone! Here’s the Master of the Universe.” I was standing at the end of the row, about halfway back from the stage. Derrick paused and looked at me for second or two longer than the rest. I’m sure it was for dramatic effect.

            Let me tell what I that day before Derrick told me who I was. Early in the morning I met with a very close friend of mine to talk with him about several deep and personal problems he is facing. Mostly I listened, though I did offer some suggestions and I prayed for him. Later, I had lunch with Chuck Wilson, the Pastor of the New Hope Community Church. Chuck and I have been trying to get together for months. You may remember that Chuck and his wife, Kim, lost one of their children named Ryan to an alcohol and drug overdose two days before their oldest son’s wedding. I’ve been praying for my friend and I wanted to see how he was doing. After those two good meetings, I was looking forward to go spending the afternoon and evening with one of my sons. My day was filled with time spent with men—two friends, and one of my sons. There are a lot of men in my life who care about me and for whom I care deeply. So when I saw this one card hanging on the wall of the Daryl Roth Theatre, my hand went straight for it. Sure enough, after that long, pregnant pause, Derrick Delgaudio, looked me in the eye and said, “You’re your brother’s keeper.” With a grin, I nodded and sat down.

            So I can’t figure out the real trick. Was it that Derrick guessed right or that I knew it?