Impressive kids and being present
November 8, 2013
There was so much to do this week and the week flew by and everything that needed to get done… did not. Every day got sidetracked by something that seemed both urgent and important. People dropped into my office from out-of-state and unannounced. Opportunities to meet with people I admire popped up and I took them, every one. And the conversations sent me in multiple directions, away from my day-to-dayness and off into adventures of the mind.
Which is all well and good and even exciting. But the piles on my desk grew and co-mingled and looked like a deck of cards the dealer let fly. The only dinner I actually "cooked" for myself was a can of soup. I grabbed some pre-made stuff, I let a friend cook for us at her house (she’s good at it) and a lovely gentleman took me out to a thoughtful, elegant meal, where my work was never served up.
But all of that pales to the time I spent with local middle and high school students. It is a project that will soon be revealed but it involved students acting as judges and students speaking and students needed to attend to details. And here’s the short version — the kids are all right. More than all right. They are smart and kind and funny and talented. Wicked talented.
I listened to some of the young people consider others in the judging segment and they never said the kinds of things I remembered from my middle school and high school days. They didn’t poke fun at body types or clothes. They didn’t gossip about the students. They didn’t tear down any talks. They didn’t mock or make fun of any bit of the process. They didn’t ask "how much longer" would they be, during their precious after school time.
They were smart and funny and thoughtful and respectful. They did not all come from equal socio-economic groups. Some of them had never worked together before that afternoon and they all collaborated equally regardless of age or gender or any other previously held separating belief. And they were brave. The students giving talks didn’t stop and ask to start over. They made no excuses if they lost their way. They made eye contact and emotional contact. I was already in awe.
Then a tall, quiet boy from Salt Lake City asked to audition. He asked questions of us, the process, the event. And then he righted himself to stand even taller and began his talk. You could have heard a cell phone hum. (They were respectfully all turned off already.)
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After all the students who were auditioning cleared the room we began the process of scoring the talks and no one jumped out of turn. When it came to the tall, quiet kid from Salt Lake City, the students couldn’t stop talking about his talk, his bravery, his presentation style. We hadn’t advertised the opportunity outside Park City, but this being a small state, someone had told him about the opportunity and he showed and took his chances. The kids, to a person, wanted him in. And they spent the most time talking about his presentation.
They left the session so polite and grateful to be a part of this event and spilling with enthusiasm for their peers and what was ahead.
I headed back to my office. No little Disney characters had shown up to tidy the space in my absence. The red, "you have messages" light was on my phone and all kinds of new papers had grown mysteriously on my desk with multi-colored little sticky notes attached for items that needed my attention/signature/filing. But it didn’t matter. I swept up an armful of the most convenient piles and threw them in a briefcase a/k/a shopping bag and I started to push back from my desk. I looked up and out the windows. (I have two now. A full two hundred percent increase from my old office.)
The light was layered in a strata that was turning from grays and whites and pale blues to vibrant blues and backlit golden light and rosy hues. But in layers. Not clouds really. Like a beautiful flakey pastry crust. And in just a matter of minutes the color switched out from flat to vibrant. I just sat there mesmerized by the transformation that occurs so often and so often I miss.
The idea of being present is rooted in so many belief systems and I embrace the concept. But I rarely live it. I get busy with busyness itself and miss the details. Miss the moments. But this day I had both the students and the sky gently whacking me on the side of the head. Be here now.
I drove home grateful for my crazy, fulfilling day and the tiny moments of reflection and transition from day to night. I pulled into my driveway just as a mom and young deer jumped, jumped, jumped, spring-loaded, from my yard to my neighbors. The is a parallel universe where my life could have turned out so differently. I am all too aware of its existence. It allows me to appreciate this very Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the organization that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.