What a difference a few steps can make.
I teach in the English department on the opposite end of the building from the band room. But a couple of weeks ago I found myself stepping back in time as I wrangled a set of drums for my son’s talent show.
It seemed like only yesterday that I was there with my best buds, hanging out and feeling like a part of one big dysfunctional, but generally happy, family. The atmosphere was the same. A cacophony of brass, wind, and laughter filled the room.
Show time. There was a stir of excitement as the band members packed their trailer for the night’s performance.
When I was in high school, I though my chances at joining were voided when a friend talked me out of signing up for beginner band in seventh grade. I never learned how to play an instrument. But somehow I found a home in the band as a member of the guard.
Actually, back then we referred to ourselves as the flag corps. The beautiful majorettes stayed to themselves, and the rifles stuck to their guns. But the flag girls were special. I’ll never forget the parties and those horrific fiberglass flag poles we had to carry. They were lethally heavy, nothing compared to the lighter and prettier poles the guard members carry today.
I’m not the outgoing type. I’m competitive, yes. I’m a Bell. But I never have been what you would call a girly girl. I’ve always felt more comfortable throwing a baseball, shooting a basketball, or riding a horse. When the band director and my friends suggested I try out for guard, I thought they were nuts.
Me, dancing around in costume on a football field, keeping time, waving around a flag? Yeah, right. I was the bonafide poster child for all the rhythmless, clutzy dorks.
I lacked confidence. I didn’t carry myself well, but a slouch doesn’t look so great on the field. I had to learn how to march with one foot in front of the other, how to maintain great posture with the chin held high, and how to stay totally focused even if I messed up.
I never, ever considered trying out until my band director and friends on the corps pushed me into it.
As they say, never say never.
I learned the routines. I tried out. But there were no guarantees. I had to get over my fear of failure and do what I thought I could not do. I still remember the music from my routine–“The Theme from Love Boat.”
(Many thanks to the flag captain who worked with me and help me put together my routine. I never throught I could–or would–do it.)
But I did it, and I made it. I survived camp and even won a Drill Down competition for the most precise moves. And even more unbelievably,I actually performed on the field in front of packed bleachers, twirling a flag
to the sounds of the “William Tell Overture.”
Okay. I’ll admit there were times I felt a little awkward, prancing around like the Lone Ranger in search of Tonto. But the friendships I made and the courage I developed were worth everything.
I’ll never forget the game when we planned our greatest feat yet. Members of the flag corps lined up in two rows, and the band paraded through the middle of us and we tossed our flag poles to our waiting partners on the other side, making them spin above the band members’ heads.
“Dear, Lord,” I prayed. “Please, on this night, do not let me kill anyone. And if I do hit somebody in the head, please don’t let it be one of the cute drummer boys.”
I am happy to report there were no casualties.
The point I’m trying to make her is that sometimes we need a little push to take the extra steps to move out of our comfort zones. Something grand may be waiting us just a few steps away. We may even see it, but our fear can keep us from crossing the line.
If my friends and my band director hadn’t given me a nudge, I would have never realized that I CAN do what I think is impossible, I never would have made friends with some of the most incredible people I’ve met in my life, and I may have never opened the door to my creativity.
As a teacher, I push my students. They don’t like it.
I make them do assignments they don’t like to do. I make them try new things. I make them talk in front of the class. I make them interpret poetry. I make them meet deadlines. I make them write.
Sometimes they say ugly things about me behind my back and occasionally to my face. I laugh. Some of them are very creative with their insults. I’m sure it’s just their “special” way of saying “I love you, Mrs. L.”
Truthfully, I think the majority of them know I do what I do because they know they need it.
The greatest compliment I can ever receive is for my students’ eyes to light up when they realize for the first time they possess a gift they never know they had, when they discover they can do something they once thought was impossible.
I always figured myself to be just another short, dorky kid that didn’t belong. But my band director believed I was worth “pushing.” I hope my students realize they are worth “pushing.”
I have a challenge for those of you out there with a gift, especially you writers. I believe God places people in our lives for a reason. Look around you. Is there someone in your life that you can “push” or “nudge?” Can you share a little bit of your gift, your encouragement, so that others can discover they have something special too? Don’t keep it all to yourself.
Just a thought. Push on.
NOTE: Do you know someone who needs a little push, a little encouragement? Please encourage your friend to read my blog. I always hope for a new subscriber.