Two weeks ago I was invited to march with the high school band. Full disclosure: this is for the school that I teach at as well as the school I graduated from. It was the final home football game and had been designated middle school night, so the seventh and eighth graders were playing as well.
I have only attended one football game this year and it was to watch the band. Though I enjoy football, I have a hard time taking time out of my writing schedule to watch sports my children are not involved in. I paid my bleacher dues in the early 2000s when four children played sports and participated in band. I also had a long stint as a color guard coach. I still coach track. Now that my “children” are students, it is much harder to pry my rear off the chair once I get home.
When I walked into the band room, a rehearsal was just beginning. I sat amongst the flutes and put my instrument together. The minute I began to play, I felt like I was home. This feeling continued to grow and expand throughout the evening.
Marching mechanics returned naturally as did the swelling pride of being seen with these fine young men and women. We marched to the track in front of the stands, played the national anthem and the school song, then took our seats in the bleachers. Cheering, playing songs – some familiar, but many new – chatting with those around me, watching the halftime show (which sounded amazing), and witnessing our team’s first win of the season became a little surreal as I realized how much I appreciated the atmosphere these students were creating for their successors.
In speeches after the game, the five senior band members spoke of the feeling of family, belonging, and trust that have meant so much to them throughout their four years of band. They thanked the director, Ms. Straus, and their fellow bandmates past and present for helping to create the family that is West Central Band.
I want to thank Jaden for inviting me to play and allowing me to remember just how important it is for schools to provide opportunities for students to experience a sense of family. Yes, learning academic material is important for future success, but I would argue that the joy of shared experience and accomplishment that comes from participation in band, cross country, other sports and clubs will be what ultimately determines the worth and success of each student who passes through the doors as a high school graduate.
It is this type of shared experience and accomplishment that binds a nation of immigrants together into what the world calls “American.” Lately, it seems we Americans have spent more time worrying about what separates us and makes us different, than we have remembering what makes us strong and connected. Unity of purpose, of vision, of ideals – the value of every human being inherently given by God, not through some fluke of DNA, genes, or birthplace that creates in us a nation that cannot be torn apart because we can remember, deep down in our American hearts, that we are meant to endure, together, because of a sense of shared joy and accomplishment.
It is because we are American, but so is anyone else who wants to join us in our struggle to make every neighborhood, every school, every group a better place to promote shared feelings of joy, accomplishment, and connection.
Let’s focus on what brings us together rather than what pushes us apart as we finish out 2020.
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