It’s As Easy As Counting To Four
by Lisa Cadigan
I’m a believer that our actions and words have impact beyond our greatest imaginings. We all have stories of one kind word that changed the course of our day, memories of people who have touched our lives in ways that change the way we live and think. If we reflect on these stories, they are usually not big things, but simple gifts of time and attention.
Last year I started volunteering at my kids’ elementary school with the orchestra students. A few mornings a week, anyone who wants to practice his or her instrument in the twenty minutes between bus drop-off and the first bell can come to the orchestra room for a practice session supervised by me. I don’t know how to play the violin, but I do know how to count to four, smile, and encourage a kid who’s trying to learn something new.
During the first few weeks, I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t getting more kids to show up each morning. I mean, I offer PRIZES, and I can be FUN, and still, usually only two or three kids tend to show up regularly. But after a few weeks, it hit me that these are two or three whole people coming to practice, and they are really getting something out of that little bit of time. Plus, I get something out of it, too (for those keeping score, that’s four whole people). Nothing beats getting a couple of kids together to make music. If you have ever played an instrument or sung in a musical ensemble, you know what I am talking about – that feeling of being part of something greater, of allowing the energy of the music and the people around you to fill you up while you simultaneously return it to them. Pure joy. Even when someone on the outside might think it sounds like noise.
Volunteering was “Part 1” of this effort. “Part 2” was to ensure that ANY kid who wanted to participate had the means to do so. Last year, the school’s music teachers, principal and I reached out to families to see if there were students who wanted to play an orchestra instrument, but couldn’t afford to rent or purchase one, as well as families who could afford an instrument – or two – who might like to help the others. We were all thrilled to be able to match a few sponsor families with other families who needed a little help. Later in the year, our wonderful orchestra teacher organized a fundraiser to expand assistance to all three elementary schools in the district. This year we are expanding the request for family sponsors to all three schools as well. These are such simple things: thoughts turned into written words, sent as letters with a few follow-up phone calls that result in real opportunities to help a child grow and learn, not just about music, but about the kindness of people.
It’s the little things that matter. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I am so proud to watch this idea grow. Witnessing people perform acts of kindness in a musical framework is an experience that encompasses all of my favorite things. My hope is that others will hear me toot my horn and want to play, too; that we will continue to expand opportunities for kids to creatively express themselves, a gift that has the potential to keep giving over a lifetime. So on second thought, maybe we should all toot our horns a little more often. Do you have a good idea? Toot away, friend. And if you would like to play your part with our orchestra program, email me and I can tell you how to sponsor a child whose song is waiting to be heard.