By Keith Whitson

Canadian counselor Lucy MacDonald said “The initial bond is the shared experience.”

I think great experiences are made even better when shared with friends. Have you ever been out by yourself and seen something that you would have loved to share with another? It doesn’t do it justice to try and describe the event to someone later.

Shared experiences are ones you can reflect back on for years and relive with those you experienced the moment with. I recently got to be part of a great shared moment along with 11 others from the area.

Jan Hendren Bradley and her sister Luann Hendren have been friends of mine for years. I can reflect on shared moments which have been made even more special by experiencing them with those two.

Their late father, Joe Hendren, was an influential figure with Erwin’s business and development, just as his father before him. His daughters have carried on that tradition. One such effort is keeping the local  Capitol Cinema I & ll alive and thriving.

How fortunate we are to have such an entertainment venue in the middle of our town. It provides an experience unique to the area with a  large screen,state-of-the-art equipment and the most reasonable prices around.

Recently I was invited to a brunch at the theater, followed by a showing of “Beauty and the Beast.” It doesn’t get any better than that, especially when shared with friends. We gathered at 10 a.m. for a spread of sausage balls, country ham biscuits, pinwheels, shrimp, cheeses, pickles, fruit and several dessert treats.

I already knew most of the other 11 who showed up but soon made friends with those I didn’t know. We mingled and ate and ate some more. We were then given a bag of popcorn and found our seat in the theater for our private showing.

Even previews are fun when watched with friends and in an environment where we can loudly express “Oh that looks good” and “We should see that.”

I never saw the 1991 animated version of “Beauty and the Beast,” so I had no idea of the storyline. Disney always gives us a unique experience and it was no exception with this film, which we saw in 3-D.

Set in France, a young woman, Belle, is imprisoned in an enchanted castle by the fearsome Beast. The Beast is actually a prince who was cursed by a sorceress for his callousness. She is also pursued by Gaston, who wants her hand in marriage, leading to a confrontation with the Beast.

The movie was a great lesson on not judging people too quickly or based upon their outer appearance. Take time to get to know them inside and who they really are. We can all benefit from that example and often don’t know what friendships we are missing out on because we make unwarranted assumptions.

As I watch the chances for Belle and the Beast become more hopeless, I start to worry that this could be a sad ending. Would Disney do this to me? I became more concerned when I heard Jan behind me, calling out “Kiss him, kiss him.” The kiss was to be a saving moment for the Beast. If Jan had doubt and was trying to encourage the outcome of the film, maybe we were in for sadness. I, too, wanted to start yelling out “Kiss him, kiss him.”

I will not give away the ending for those who, like me, had no clue of the storyline. I do encourage you to see the movie. “Beauty and the Beast” still has a few more showings in Erwin.

After the movie we all gathered in the lobby to talk about the film, our favorite parts and the fun we had shared. I appreciate great friends and good times.

We are blessed to have a close-knit community.  Wherever you go in Unicoi County you need to allow extra time. Whether it is the grocery store or out to eat, chances are you will run into some friends or neighbors. You don’t get that experience in bigger cities. Take time to appreciate those moments. They are what bonds us as a community.

Just as in the movies, we get previews in life but watching the plot of our lives develop can be both scary and exciting. I wish everyone many beautiful scenes, adventures and a happy ending. Remember those 3-D glasses will often make situations seem like they are coming right at us. They usually don’t reach us in reality.