When I was a teacher, I would tell my students that it was important to dream. That really no one, including you, knows who you might become. At the same time, I would tell them, we are only human. We have limits. There is something called reality. If you are two feet tall, you are not going to star in the NBA. Accepting your limits is ok. It doesn’t mean you stop dreaming.
I have a child who wants to become a saint. Let’s just say, it’s a long shot.
It hurts to watch her struggles. Her dream is painful to me. Part of me wants to tell her to give it up until she can at least listen to her mother, but something tells me to keep my mouth shut. There are worse things to dream about.
I want some comfort. I want cold hard facts. Tell me that Mother Teresa once had a thing for stealing chocolate milks, and I’m there. Mostly. Maybe add in that Mother Teresa lied like a cheap rug. Was a master storyteller, practicing her art at a tender age, before she taught us how to live.
If sainthood requires compliance, this mother superior sees trouble ahead. Things like, do not go into my room without permission, are routinely ignored despite consequences. Nail polish, scissors, or a button are deemed worth suffering for. I went through the boots last week and found something to fit everybody. Young saint deemed her grey boots unsuitable. She hides sneakers in her bag because they are boy boots and she would rather have her toes frozen than inside them.
Give it up, child! I want to scream. It is hopeless even without your dream.
She frustrates me , confounds me. Her dream to be a saint is beautiful, but it hurts to think about. Her teachers couldn’t possibly do anything but laugh at the idea.
This summer at the bus shelter, I discovered chaos. My recycling had been raided. Plastic bottles filled with this and that were on the floor. The benches were covered with piles of papers, disheveled, some also on the floor. I clenched my teeth, sick of the messes and picked up a few of the pictures. They had little money signs taped on them. 25 cents. 1$. A sign said, “Art sale.” Beside it was a labelled jar. “Money for the poor,” it said.
Sitting in a parking lot yesterday, I realized that I was being asked to give more than clear re-direction, and considered consequences. Against the odds, in the face of everything that laughs, I need to believe in her dream.
I didn’t arrive home to angels dancing. I arrived home to stories that didn’t add up. Today I will drive her to school and stand with her while she makes amends. Others may rightly shake their heads in frustration. I am sad at her choices, but I will hold her hand today and believe that this little girl will someday be a saint.
(Fasting from all things masculine as prayer for the sick? Stolen art for the needy? anybody? anybody?)
No, really, I’m going to believe it. We both need me to.
Doing dishes the other night, the sounds of my son’s trombone warmed me at least as much as the wood stove. In one small run of eighth notes, I went from dreading the obligations of Christmas to realizing that, “almost December,” meant the Christmas Concert at his school. A sentimentalist I am not. Many a concert or school function I have attended as a grudging token of decency to the children I helped bring into this world. But this is not that. His school music program is exceptional and the concerts are a true pleasure. The Go-to-bed-on-time-Nazi (me) lets the younger kids go and be grumpy for two days afterwards because the way their eyes brighten and their toes tap is worth it.
For anyone within driving distance of St. Michael’s in Kemptville, I cannot recommend the Christmas concert highly enough. The students will be well rehearsed. Their repertoire will be a wonderful mix of pieces worth doing. The evening will appeal to kids and adults of all ages because the performers and their impassioned and talented director will bring enough joy to fill the place. The concert features Jr. and Sr. bands, a jazz band, and my personal favourite, a chamber choir.
On Thursday, December 12, at 7:00pm, something simple, true, and beautiful is happening. At that time, in that place, young men and women beaming with the promise of tomorrow will be making music. Together. For free. For you. If you can believe in their possibilities by attending the concert, you will be richly rewarded with the experience of something as new and alive as a miracle.
If you cannot come see these particular young people at this particular school, consider finding a school near you which is doing music well and then support them with your presence. Schools that value music need to know that we’re behind them because our children need to be able to sing. Children who sing know how to listen to the voices of others. They have seen and heard and felt for themselves the mystery of individuals working together to create a whole that is bigger than any one of them. Children who sing not only discover their own beautiful voices they learn how to make them stronger. They learn how to hold their own when others are singing something different.
This applies to those in choirs, as well as those in bands. A girl with a clarinet is discovering her voice as much as a tenor singing his first solo. Instruments are voices to which we have added imagination. What would happen if we were to hold our mouths just so and blow through this tube, or across the hole on the side of it? A hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand people have wondered, have practiced this . . . and then along comes the girl. She picks up the instrument, and to all the imagination that has gone before her, she adds her own. She finds her voice and sings an old song, now born into something completely new.
I am posting this now, in early November, because right now there is still plenty of time to save the night for this concert on your calendar. I’ll send a reminder in December, but consider blocking the time now. I don’t know about you, but I look outside and see a world that needs joyful voices. I see kids walking down the street, wondering about tomorrow, and I hope someone is teaching them to sing.
This Christmas season, if you can, find a school concert with outstanding music and go to it. Say with your presence that you don’t want a world without twelve year olds on trumpets and seventeen year olds singing Handel. Say their voices matter. Say you want the music.