Strangely ordinary event stirs writer

Strangely ordinary event stirs writer
While perched on the top bleacher waiting for this year's elementary school Christmas concert to begin, I get all stirred up. Like marching bands, Christmas programs do something to me.

Could it be this crowd flowing through the doors? One-by-one, two-by-two, flooding the gymnasium, forming a sea of grief they've left behind and joy they have in tow: unmade beds and unsettled arguments, untangled knots and unsinkable hope.

Suppose my own childhood memories are front and center stage? Fashion shows, spelling bees, debates, theatrical plays, Christmas programs – the audience's force around me, through me. Ubiquitous faces, listening, laughing, whispering, and waiting. Is it this wave of innocence washing up the risers, a flood of purity up, up, up with some wobbling but no spills?

Could it be their festive attire – a single file of buttons and bows, loops and laces, satin and suede, velvet and velour, boots and buckles, ribbons and ruffles? Their hairdos? Curls and crews, braids and buzzes, slicked down and fluffed up.

Or by chance, is it this saint-like music teacher about to perform a miracle by changing dozens of voices from quiet panic into melodies?

Her posture, now a statue, signals the children to be still. Suddenly, her arms swoop in the air, and noisy gathering hushes. Her baton waves to and fro. Finally, what has been waiting to come out abruptly interrupts a momentary quiet.

Exuberance and reluctance synchronized on cue. Frightened voices, blushing voices, excited voices, confused voices all transformed to one sound, one song.

Suppose it is the pensive peace of this primary school performance that has me all a flutter. Is this an image of our offering, our collection of sorts toward a wholeness we strive for in town, at work, at home, down deep inside?

We have our differences. We have some things in common, too. We fall short. We rise above. We don't measure up. We exceed. We are sunk low. We are lifted up high. Shoulder-to-shoulder, elbow-to-elbow, arm-in-arm we stand together. Everyone included. No one left behind. Is this strangely ordinary event what peace on earth looks like?

Like marching bands down Main Street, Christmas concerts get me all choked up.

A resident of Southeast South Dakota for more than 30 years, Paula Damon is a popular columnist, keynote speaker, and freelance writer. Her column writing has won first-place national and state awards in The Federation of Press Women competitions. For more information, e-mail

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