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This will be a slightly longer and more descriptive post than usual, because I feel that the splendour of the experience warrants it. I am so thankful to the Langley Lions Club Lions Clubs International for the AMAZING experience they blessed this team with yesterday.
The event was a special gala at the Sheraton Hotel in Surrey. The hotel was absolutely luxurious, and lavished with the most beautiful furniture and decorations. Walking into the hotel was both exciting and intimidating for us as a team, as many of the kids have never had the chance to be in such an environment. We found ourselves surrounded by hundreds of guests at the event – a fancy lunch gala. Guests wore suits and uniforms, and had on badges and medals. They were clearly very distinguished and honourable people.
As I finished setting up the choir’s equipment beside the stage, I watched my choir start arriving. Their sweet faces alive with wonder, excitement, and anxiety. They wore white and purple formalwear – purple, the colour of royalty, and white, the colour of innocence. I paused, as I have done time and time again, to wonder if they look like angels to anyone else.
I assembled my team, we did our cheer, as we always do, to remind them that they are not going up there to sing alone, but that they are part of a team, and are supported and important to every other member. I ask them to put their hands in the middle, to give them physical reassurance that they are not alone.
I was asked to walk in first, and go up on stage and talk about the choir. As I talked, my choir was led in. And they walked in, in a single file line (they oriented themselves this way. I allow them to stand and move however feels natural to them at performances.) To my delight, as they walked, like a perfect straight line of angel soldiers dressed in white and purple, the audience applauded them. I will eternally be grateful that the audience applauded them. For them, the journey into the room, through the rows and rows of tables of distinguished guests dresses up with badges and medals inside a lavishly fancy room, was intimidating. But some angel was looking down on us, and the wonderful, beautiful crowd greeted my sweet choir with applause. I watched their sweet faces turn from anxiety to excitement and pride.
They lined up in a perfectly straight line. A line perfectly, mathematically straight – a straight line made out of these perfect, beautiful human beings. How solid they look before me. What a privilege it is to stand before them. Then begins the part that I have come to live for. I raise my hands to prepare them, to let them know the song is about to begin. I see them perk up, all eyes on me, looking at me with that look of deep, abiding trust and anticipation that I have come to adore. In the darkest moments of my life, I can picture myself standing in front of them, that look of trust and anticipation in their eyes, and remind myself that it is a gift to be alive.
The music starts, and the audience vanishes. The lavishly decorated room vanishes. The noise from the streets, and the view outside the windows vanish, thoughts of university math exams, work, conformity, pain, pleasure, everything vanishes – except for me and them. Me and my angel choir dressed in purple and white, the colours of royalty and innocence.
Once we finish, the most beautiful thing happens. The audience, dressed in medals and uniforms, badges and bangles, in that fancy, fancy room – all STAND UP, and give my choir a standing ovation. The applause goes on and on. And I got the best view of all. I did not stand and face the audience, as a choir director is supposed to during an applause, I couldn’t take my eyes off them – I stood and faced my choir. I stood them and faced them, watched them huddle together and giggle, shyly and humbly, astonished and bashful, under the spotlight, against the biggest and longest standing ovation I have ever seen. Some of the kids began to weep tears of happiness, at this massive display of appreciation and celebration. Celebration of them, of their accomplishments, of the essence of who they are. I never wanted it to end. I wanted to watch them stand there in their glory forever and ever.
After it was over, as guests left the event, they gave me another thrill – for which I will also be eternally grateful. As guests left the event, they went up to each singer, and shook their hand. They hugged the singers. Some of the audience members cried when they hugged the kids, and told them how wonderful they are. They gave them small gifts of pins and tokens. One gentleman even took a medal off of his uniform, and pinned it onto the chest of one of our youngest members who happened to be in a wheelchair that day.
To see these kids in their glory, to have them hear the wonderful things about themselves, to watch them weep with delight at a standing ovation, is the greatest joy of my life. Knowing what they go through at school, knowing how many of them face unspeakable abuse and bullying, the burdens they bare are tremendous, but experiences like the ones they had yesterday, help to lift that burden, and help them see what it is to be loved by strangers, to be respected, to be honoured, to be adored. I hope and pray with all my might that they will soak this in, and never ever settle for anything less than being treated like that, ever.
Tonight, they are going to have a pizza party, because I want to further emphasize how deeply amazing they did. I hope I will have the courage in the moment, when I have them before me again in the practice room, to tell them all of this.