Archive for the ‘Young People’ Category

386. Little Margaret

I got to hold little Margaret during the Arts Council concert Sunday.  She’s five weeks old and absolutely adorable.  It had been a long time since I’d held a baby, and if Margaret hadn’t been asleep she probably wouldn’t have put up with it.  But since she didn’t know who was holding her, everything was fine.

The first baby I ever held – more than 26 years ago – was Lori’s and my first son, William.  We had no idea what to do with a baby, but somehow we figured it out.  Lori and I went on to have two more children, Angela and Thomas.  With each one parenting got easier, but it never got easy.

Before we became parents, Lori and I thought we knew everything about raising children.  Parenting seemed simple and straight-forward.  Nobody, after all, knows more about being a parent than someone who’s never had a child.  It all seems so simple when it’s abstract, when there are no dirty diapers, no sleepless nights, no croup or colic.

But in truth nobody knows more about being a parent than someone who HAS been one.  Parenting is a skill that develops gradually through experience.  I admire Margaret’s parents for undertaking this noble task, envy them their youth (babies suck that out of us quickly), and I can’t help but ponder the challenges and wonders that await them.

As I handed Margaret back to her mom I felt a familiar parental urge stir within me – I wanted as good a future for Margaret as I do for my own children, and I imagine most people – not just parents – feel the same about the children around them.

Over the years I’ve had opportunities to work with children in various ways.  I’m proud to be a Teammates mentor and I was happy to take part in a Career Day for area students last week.  One thing I try to tell young people is that most of the adults around them want them to succeed, and will help them if they can (and I’ve found that not all kids, unfortunately, have this form of support).

It’s a cliché that ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’ but friends and neighbors do play an important role in our children’s lives – just look at how much time and money we invest in schools, in playgrounds, and in organizations like scouts and church groups.

I saw a very good example of this last Friday when local veterans partnered with the school for the annual Veteran’s Day program.  And as I looked at the students’ faces, I felt that commitment to their future that so many of us share.

The featured speaker was career Air Force veteran Clyde Stuhr of Petersburg.  Clyde’s theme was the importance of having one another’s backs, whether in the military or in civilian life.  I know first-hand how much our veterans have their neighbors’ backs – earlier this year they helped send our son Thomas and us to Washington D.C. for the national Voice of Democracy event.  But it isn’t just veterans – pretty much everyone in a small town has each other’s backs.  That’s one of the attractions of living in a community like Albion.

Holding little Margaret helped remind me that we are all part of a large and diverse family, bonded together by a shared commitment to our own families, to our community and to our future.  For without that commitment, there would be no future.  But so long as we have each other’s backs – especially our children’s – our future looks pretty good…

320. What It Takes

I witnessed a lot of courage last weekend. It wasn’t someone running into a burning building to save a child or anything like that. It was instead a quiet, personal courage that’s easy to overlook. But just because such examples of bravery aren’t given much notice doesn’t make them any less exceptional.

The courage I’m referring to was displayed by local students last Saturday at the Conference Speech competition and last Sunday at the Boone Central Variety Show. Nothing about speech and music is life and death, but courage is essential for a range of everyday situations, including speaking and performing for an audience.

My son Thomas has been in speech for several years but Lori and I haven’t been able to make it to many of his meets. And unfortunately, we were late getting to the meet Saturday. But we did get to hear him and five other finalists, including his teammate Cameron Schilousky, compete in the final round of extemp. “Extemp” is of course short for “extemporaneous,” a category of Speech in which contestants only have an hour to research a topic and give a presentation about it.

Talk about pressure! All extemp topics are timely and complex, and persuasive arguments can be made for and against them all. Extemp speakers must find articles in magazines and on the web regarding their topic and then decide where they stand. And then they get to stand up and explain why.

It takes courage to stand in front of judges and give any kind of a speech. But to basically have to make it up as you go, following hastily scrawled notes on a small slip of paper is especially daunting. All six finalists were visibly nervous, but every one strode confidently in front of the judges when their time to speak came. One judge even commented that unlike many speakers who are reluctant to come forward, the extemp kids never hesitate.

I was genuinely impressed by these young people. Public speaking is one of the greatest fears people have, and no one would think less of any of these kids if they chose a less arduous pursuit.

But it takes at least as much courage to stand up in front of a crowd and sing a solo or dance. And that’s what a number of talented students did at the variety show Sunday. As a musician I know how nerve-wracking this can be and my hat’s off to every student who performed. They demonstrated talent, love for what they did and, like all the students on the Speech team, a commendable amount of courage.

Courage is a big part of sports, too, of course – so big a part that we sometimes overlook the courage of our young musicians and speakers. But they strive just as hard as our athletes do.

Underneath it all, all our young people are brave, whether they’re athletes, musicians, actors, orators or just adolescents. It takes a lot of courage, after all, to grow up.

Our community is fortunate to have dedicated teachers, administrators, parents and volunteers helping our children face their fears and spread their wings. But it’s ultimately these young people themselves who must have the courage to embrace the many opportunities that await them. The world is a scary place where a lot of things can and do go wrong. The courage and the dedication to doing things well that our young people display in so many activities, though, makes me confident they’ll have what it takes to overcome whatever challenges their chosen paths in life may present.