How is it that I can suddenly remember what really matters while watching a group of 12, 13, and 14-year-old students sing songs ranging from “Dancing Queen” by ABBA to “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele?
And whose choir teacher was born two years after I graduated high school?
Am I the only one who, while watching these pre-pubescent middle schoolers—whose voices crack at the most inopportune times—feels as if I was hit in the head by a moment that symbolizes the simple joys of life and of being humans together on this planet?
Or was I the only one who remembered they had forgotten?
I don’t know if I was the only one. It wasn’t as if I shared this with the other parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and siblings sitting around me. In my mind, it seemed obvious, watching my nephew up there with his peers. When I shared this with my nephew, his comment was along the lines of wow, I never would have thought you could get that from a choir concert.
Me either, kid.
I wonder if there are some people who never lose this—who can always go back and remember that life doesn’t always have to be so complicated. Then there are others who have just simply forgotten and need occasional reminders. Or, perhaps, like me, some had an upbringing that was always complicated and rarely celebrated and missed out on this one important lesson.
As someone who didn’t always have the experiences needed to see how the meaning of life can sometimes be so simple, I think I have always been searching for more. For some deeper meaning. For something that demanded more work, or knowledge, or reading, or understanding, or experience. Something that often seemed then—and sometimes still does seem—so elusive.
When, in reality, it’s always been right there. We have all known, even for the briefest of moments, what really matters in life. Since we could walk and talk and experience anger and sadness and joy and sorrow and belonging and acceptance and loss and love.
It’s always been there—but was so often obscured by the bigger things that come with being a human being and always searching for more. We become more skeptical, or distrusting, or genuinely disbelieving that the answer is that simple.
As simple as…a middle school choir.
When we can be with our peers, some shorter and some taller than us.
Some less athletic, but more academic.
Some with better hair, others with better dance moves.
Some are artists, while others are musicians.
Some have self-confidence issues, while others love being the center of attention.
Some revel in showing off their own personal style, while others worry about wearing the clothes everyone else wears.
Some can stand on stage and groove to the music, while others seem frozen by their own self-doubts.
Yet, with all of these differences, there is one thing they all have in common.
They cheer for each other. Loudly. They clap and sing and sway and celebrate together. They honor the effort more than the result. They acknowledge the struggle before the success. They see the human standing before them and don’t feel the need to look beyond that at this singular moment.
I would be hard pressed to find anyone else who claims that middle school students are the answer to what matters in life.
But tonight, watching my nephew and his fellow students stand before the audience, vulnerable and full of doubt, and then being fortunate enough to witness those same students being celebrated by their friends and family—well, it simply made me realize that us human adults seem to have forgotten that we learned the secret to life long, long ago.
Which simply seems to be to celebrate each other—each other’s efforts, each other’s vulnerabilities, each other’s needs, each other’s desires.
What if we all just celebrated being human together?
And cheered for our friends as if they could all sing like Adele.