Elementary school concerts immediately have a few things working against them. Parking is a pain in the neck. They are a forest of strategically placed tripods and well-meaning parents using iPads to record. They are a constant reminder that no amount of plastic chairs is ever enough and that microphone feedback, not hydrogen, is the most plentiful element in the galaxy.
They are also fantastic. Perhaps not musically fantastic or technically fantastic but those are our kids up there. Those are our kids belting out obscure songs and trying to keep up with the hand motions. Those are our kids giving their all in their moment.
For them, it’s huge.
Both of our kids sang in the Winter Concert at their school. The kids filed into a full auditorium and climbed onto the risers on the stage. Many of the kids wore standard school attire. Quite a few had dressed up for the concert sporting every imaginable kids’ version of business casual. There were a dozen little girls in lovely dresses with pretty hair. Several miniature men had come in neatly pressed suits with matching ties and pocket squares. These lines of first-graders were mini-me versions of grown-ups, dressed by Mom or Dad to walk on to this stage and make an impression.
What stole our attention, though, was the young man in the front who wore a tuxedo. Vest, bowtie and all. There he was, dressed to the nines, spiffy and handsome and all the things a first grader can be in a tuxedo. The piano began to play and this young man belted out the words to a song about a dancing snowman with his entire being. The elegance of the tuxedo was suddenly an afterthought for all of us as he bounced, raised his hands, reached for the stars and sang with complete and ridiculous abandon.
Simply for contrast, standing right next to him was another young man in a simple t-shirt. Emblazoned on the t-shirt were the apt words “Energy Drink Not Needed”.
These two boys sang their hearts out for the next 15 minutes. Their mouths open wide enough to please a near-sighted dentist.
Here they were, in front of hundreds of strangers and a handful of friends and family, singing and having a great time and enjoying their fifteen minutes.
Who has that kind of abandon? Where does that kind of fearlessness come from?
Children stand together and they sing together. Tuxedo next to t-shirt by pink dress then overalls right beside pocket square. They probably don’t agree on a single thing, but they stand, side by side, and join voices and hearts and have a blast. They stood and they sang those three songs and the only thing that mattered was the song. Everything else faded and we heard joy and unity and they heard applause.
They want to be just like us. We dress them up and they love it. For three songs, they get to be us and that is sublime. I watch tuxedo and energy drink and pink dress and overalls and pocket square link hands with 50 others and take a united bow. They are pleased. We are pleased.
Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? United, hand in hand, tackling problems together no matter where we come from or what we look like? Facing our challenges side by side, one at a time? Deep down, isn’t that what we’re really capable of? And what we should expect?
The irony is they want to be just like us while it is us that could, and should, strive to be more like them.