Lately I’ve been hearing “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” in my dreams. No, I’m not reminiscing about the Rocky Mountain Boy (John Denver, for those of you under 40). Rachel has been practicing this song on the guitar for the past several weeks, preparing for the upcoming school talent show. Considering she only picked up the guitar for the first time at the start of this semester, she did really well. During her performance, Rachel’s voice was a little quaky at first, but grew stronger as she went on – especially after recovering from forgetting the third verse. (oops)
Truth be told, I was very pleasantly surprised with the level of talent shown today. While most were visibly scared to death, there were some really lovely singing voices, some outstanding pianists (we won’t name names, Josh), and an incredible tap dancer. In addition to the music and dancing, there was a skit that unfortunately was drowned out so I couldn’t really hear – but the one boy’s costume (pink dress, heels and, um, soccer balls for a bosom) made up for it. For one act, a couple boys did a “marshmallow trick”. Basically, that was one boy tossing throwing mini-marshmallows at the other, who tried to catch them in his mouth. Actually, he did pretty well – missing a few but catching some really tough shots. Silly, but a nice break for a few minutes.
Of course, there were a couple vocalists who might have benefited from voice lessons, but they had great courage to stand before some 300+ of their peers and put it all out there. In all this, there was one moment that showed more about the people in this school, and by connection, their families, than any other. About 2/3 of the way through, a girl came to the mic to sing. She looked like nothing extraordinary. In fact, for all outward appearances, she might be the one left out of games, sitting on the sidelines of anything fun or social. Still, the kids in the audience cheered for her start as enthusiastically as any other. Her music cd started, and she fumbled over a few words. The girl’s discomfort was palpable as she stumbled, hesitated, and finally apologized, turning away to leave. From across the gym, a girl yelled, “You can do it!” Everyone – and I mean EVERYONE cheered for her to return and start again.
Because there is one deaf girl in the school, an asl interpreter was signing the songs, generally using written lyrics to go by. The girl who was trying to sing came back and told the interpreter she had forgotten the words. (little wonder with all the pressure these kids feel!) The interpreter passed the music stand with the lyrics over so they could both look on, then the music resumed, and the girl tried again.
While this girl was singing – quiet, not really on key, but following through to the end – I looked around the gym. Virtually every eye was on her. Kids leaned forward, willing her to succeed. There were a few smaller fumbles, but nothing too noticeable, and she saw it through to the finish. She may have been no Taylor Swift, but her reception as she finished was every bit as wild and enthusiastic.
To a person, everyone I’ve ever talked to in the eight years we’ve lived here has told me how warm and welcoming the people here were. We certainly found that when we moved in. Today truly bore witness to me that this warmth is not merely superficial. Sure, kids squabble. In my last entry is a great example of some of the conflicts kids encounter – here and everywhere. No place I know is immune. But the level of support – universal support – for one who isn’t in the “popular” crowd showed something here far more significant. In this day of bullies, troubled teens and general identity confusion, there’s something redeeming about teens reaching out to another who needs them, claiming her for their own and helping her stand.
“Wherefore be faithful…succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, an strengthen the feeble knees.” D&C 81:5