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“If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.”
—Barry Lopez
(as Badger, in Crow and Weasel)


To be nobody but yourself -- in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else -- means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.
- e. e. cummings


The Song of Freedom

-------It's funny to think how easily we can get ourselves so wrapped up in a project or endeavor that we become almost oblivious to the realities that surround us. A long-time family friend and I recognized each other in a crowded convention hall, though we had not seen each other since my childhood. As I caught her up on my then-young teaching career, she shared with me a story that, after many years of dormancy, had recently blossomed before her very eyes. She had been a junior high choir director, and the story she shared began very early in her career, while she was inexperienced and most ambitious. She selected a tune for her young choir that had always been one of her favorite selections. She knew it was very inspirational and patriotic, but she was far too naive to realize just how greatly she had overestimated the ability level of her adolescent singers. Her decision to teach the piece had been born of a strong passion and a sincere desire to share with these energetic young souls the gifts to be found within this special piece of music. In reality, the situation became an intense struggle. _____The piece failed to yield the patriotic and musical enlightenment she had envisioned and rather became the foe in a fierce and bloody battle to the end. Feeling somewhere deep inside that the goal was now perseverance, she allowed herself to put her students through an experience that, in retrospect, she was certain had been counterproductive. The piece was finally performed, and considering the circumstances came off fairly well. The final reward appeared to be more a feeling of relief than the pride and sense of accomplishment she had hoped they would each experience. She decided it was best to chalk this one up to experience and move on, vowing to see that her future endeavors created positive experiences for her students. They would consist of goals that were relatively easy to attain, thereby offering the opportunity to build confidence and positive self-esteem.
-------Years had gone by and she had all but forgotten the event when she ran across a former student, a young man who had been in that very choir which managed to survive the painstaking battle. As they began talking he brought her up to date with the events in his life since their last meeting in his adolescent years. It seems that he had not done very well following his school career. In fact, he had only recently been released from prison. She was, of course, saddened to hear of the turn his life had taken. She listened to the rest of his story with compassion, her disappointment easing somewhat as he explained how he had been able to survive prison life. He had managed to actually come out of the experience with a fresh and positive outlook on life. He had taken lonely and desperate times and turned them into positive desire. -------------How was he able to do this? He had formed a daily routine. He would sing that patriotic, inspirational arrangement, note for note, exactly as she had taught it to him years before. He went on to explain that it had been the only time in his life when someone had made him work diligently for anything. The song carried with it the understanding that he could indeed achieve great things if only he would face the challenges of life head on. It became his inspiration and fueled him with the confidence to carry on, realizing the potential that rested before him in every challenge yet unmet.
-------As she finished her story, I became aware of the tears that were forming in each of our eyes. In a tone of voice rich with peace and resolve she humbly concluded, "You just never know what kind of impact you're having on people."

© 2004- The Trill House