The same week that two kids in trench coats brought the nation to its knees, 24 kids in costumes brought an audience to their feet. The scene was at New York's Professional Performing Arts High School, but it could have been Anywhere, USA.
It was a week I really needed to be reminded what's right in our schools: our kids. It's their passion -- channelled, nurtured, cultivated passion. It's dedicated educators, working for pay below standard, to bring out in kids their best; seeing things at times in these kids that they cannot see in themselves.
Tears welled up in my eyes as I watched these teenagers perform "Little Shop of Horrors." Exuberant, energized, so removed from the horrors this week in Colorado. I recalled Brother Eugene, Sister Angeline, and Mrs. McNeice who nurtured my own thespian talents, giving me a moment in the spotlight, letting me explore my passion. Did they dream I would be a playwright living in New York? Did I?
Parents applauded and classmates cheered. It could have been any activity where students were pushing and expanding their limits: sports, choir, chess club, or speech. But tonight, just steps away from Broadway, it was musical theatre.
I thought too of countless former students of mine at Thomas More Prep-Marian High School in Hays, Kansas. Leagues away from broadway, yet in their hearts, just as close to it as it is to these teens. I choose to believe that my students are succeeding today in whatever they're pursuing, at least in part, because I gave them a chance to shine; I had the distinct privilege of nurturing their passion for a season more than
ten years ago. Many are married now, nurturing their own families. One was just ordained a priest. At least some are now teachers and coaches too.
My hope, from a distance, is that no matter what, no matter where, that they are still feeding their passion and, hopefully, nurturing others' passions too; embracing life for all its worth.
It is unfortunate that tragedies are what it takes for us to be reminded of what's really important; but I'm grateful a group of passionate teenagers reminded me tonight that its about living life passionately and cultivating the passion of those around us.
Shine on. Shine on.
(Endnote: earlier today I received and forwarded an e-mail requesting people leave their headlights and porchlights on this weekend as a visual response to the darkness exhibited at Columbine. Having neither a car, nor a porch, consider this essay my "light." Pass it along freely.
You can email JD Schramm: [email protected]