My son was four at the time. He sang in a Holiday program with his pre-school class. Naturally, it was all kinds of funny and the kids were squirmy in their seats. The teachers were trying ever-so-hard to have the kids sing it themselves, but were plainly needed to lead them every step of the way.
There was one girl I will remember forever. Maggie was a girl who never wore dresses but wore one that day cuz her mom wanted her to. She kept tugging at it, obviously uncomfortable, as she did her share of squirming in her chair on the end of the left front row. Maggie had a mess of blond curls on her head, unruly and kinda tangled. And it suited her. She had a bit of a raspy voice and big blue eyes and she always stole my heart with her enthusiasm for everything she did.
So the kids started singing their last song of the program – “Must Be Santa”. Like I said, Maggie was enthusiastic. And this must have been her favorite song because Maggie was singing at the top of her lungs. Well, not singing exactly, more like screaming. We could here her voice atop of everyone else, teachers included. I swear I could see the muscles in her throat straining.
Then my heart broke. At one point, one of the teachers went and whispered something in her ear. Miss Something-or-other must have asked her to sing more quietly. Because Maggie got quieter then and tears started streaming down her face. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. My heart was leaping forward toward her, wanting to somehow comfort her. And dang it. Maggie kept going. She did not stop. She did not forget a word. She did not miss a beat. The tears didn’t stop but neither did the singing. She wiped a few tears away a couple of times and she sang until that song was completely done.
I will never forget the courage and determination I witnessed in Maggie that day. I hold her in my mind and heart whenever life gets hard. And harder. And harder than that. I have been through a lot and, thanks to Maggie, I have learned how to summon the kind of strength she showed that day – the kind of courage that helps us persist, despite the tears that might be flowing.