The other day I was at a small arts festival being hosted by a school. I’ve been visiting this school and performing there for almost 10 years now. They host a festival where artists spend the day going from room to room, visiting with students and performing their respective craft.
I’ve always enjoyed these campus festivals, not only for the chance to perform, but I also get to reconnect with other artists and arts personnel.
This day was a little different though. The arts coordinator let me know that morning when I arrived that I would be needed in the faculty room at lunch. She was going to have all of the artists and many of the teachers gather there for some announcements.
I set out visiting my classroom and switched classes every 45 minutes or so up until lunch time. The last class that I was with prior to lunch was a classroom of 5th grade students.
I don’t know if this has ever happened to any of you but, sometimes, you’re just having such an incredible time that you just don’t want to leave. Everything was amazing between the students and I. When it reached time for me to leave the room and go to lunch, the students demanded another story, another song. My time was up but they wanted me to stay. The funny thing was that, if I stayed not only would I be eating into my lunch time (get it… eating into my lunch time… I”m so darn clever!), but they were also sacrificing valuable recess play time.
How could I not want to stay with those issues on the line? So, remembering the arts coordinator’s words, I decided lunch wasn’t all that important and, if I had ears enthusiastic about listening to another tale or two, then I would stay.
About 15 minutes into our singing together and guided interactive tale there was a knock at the door. It was the arts coordinator. There was nothing I could say but, “I’m sorry.”
I promised to finish up the tale and head over to the staff’s lounge.
I really love it when listeners want more of what you have to offer, it is so affirming.
I finished up with the children and sprinted one the faculty lounge. When I walked into the door the coordinator had me stand at the front of the room and explained that I was needed there. At this point I wasn’t sure what was going on but it didn’t matter, I know the coordinator well and she is a wonderful person.
There were about 20 to 30 artists, administrators and teachers gathered together in the lounge. I’m standing up front for who knows what reason. Well… they all knew but I didn’t.
The coordinator began to speak and explain the reason for the gathering. Apparently there was a presentation to be made to me. My ears perked up. Me? For what? Why?
The coordinator then bought one of the schools teacher’s forward. Her name was Susan.
Susan spoke to the crowd that she had communicated with the rest of the faculty about hosting this presentation on this date, at this time and they all agreed it would be apropos.
Susan then began to explain that her father had died about a month ago and that before he passed there was something that he wanted me to have. She said that her father had never met me but was aware, through her and many of the other teachers, of the impact I had had on the children of the school.
As she spoke she was holding a large box in her arms.
This was so unexacting that I began tearing up listening to her.
Susan talked about her father’s commitment to community and education and said that he wanted to make sure, before he passed, that his most treasured possession was put in the right hands.
By this time I was flat out crying, tears running down my checks. The more I tried to keep myself in check, the more tears streamed down my face. Embarrassing? Yes!
She handed me the box. I stood there for a moment staring at the crowd and the teachers standing around me. I placed the box on the table before opening it and grabbed Susan and gave her a hug.
To say I was honored is truly an understatement.
I was handed the box again and told to open it. I did.
Inside of the box was a beautiful Nigerian Talking Drum, also known as a Dundun.
Susan’s father had received it in 1966 when he was working with the Peace Corps and it was his most prized possession. Susan told me that her father wanted it to remain in the hands of an educator, someone who would use it while working with children and I was his logical choice.
I took the drum out of the box and held it, in shock.
If masculinity is measured by your ability to hold back tears then this day I was possibly the least masculine guy on the planet. I don’t even know when the last time I cried was but, on this day, I cried in front of my peers, the staff, in my car.
As I write this, I’m recalling the intense feeling of honor that gripped me that day.
This is truly a gift that will be put to use the way it was intended and, having been entrusted with it, I will always remember its’ purpose.