Peace on Earth

The scene was a school cafeteria at lunch time. A noisy place under any circumstances, on this day it was especially loud. It was the last day of school before Christmas vacation, and everyone was ready for the break. The classroom work that morning had been minimal, and the freedom of non-taxed brains and the promise of sweets-laden holiday parties that afternoon increased the level of excitement even more.

As a way to quiet the students, as well as give in to the holiday spirit, the teachers in charge of cafeteria duty that day decided to establish an "open mike" time. Students were offered the chance to come up on the cafeteria stage and perform for their friends. The naturally shy and quiet students visibly shrank back from the idea of performing, blushing already when thinking of the ramifications of such a daring social act. However, as there are in any group of children, some children were hardly able to keep in their seats as their hands shot up and they shouted for the first turn. "Pick me! Pick me!" they cried, as one by one students performed alone or in small groups.

Some told silly jokes, some sang songs they had learned in music class. There was the requisite sampling of Taylor Swift songs sung by the sixth grade girls, and the silly movie quotes by the third grade boys.

At one table, one student held his hand up steadily and quietly as others were chosen to sing. The students around him noticed his willingness and began to snicker amongst themselves. This was a student that a teacher might euphemistically label "immature", or "quirky". A fifth grader who seemed a little out of place with his peers - who brought his stuffed animals to school. The student who would follow others around trying to make friends, and would cry forlornly when he felt in the least bit slighted. One who liked to sing Barney and Dora the Explorer songs in music class when called to choose his favorite.

Because of this, his classmates were expecting the worst. There were whispers that he would probably sing one of his more childish choices. Some students wished that he wouldn't get chosen at all, realizing even at their young age that the light of the public spotlight for this child might be very, very harsh.

But he did get picked. He made his way up to the stage among the whispers and not-so-hidden snickers. He took the microphone from the slightly anxious teacher and stood straight and tall. Taking a deep breath, he began.

What came out what not what was expected. It wasn't a juvenile song about ponies or dinosaurs, sung in a childish voice. It was Silent Night, and as he sang the first notes in clear, unwavering tones, the snickers and whispers fell away. Eyes widened, and children stopped in mid-bite to listen more carefully. The cooking staff stopped serving, and even teachers passing by halted to hear the clear voice sing alone in the cafeteria. It was as if the the previous feelings of amusement and doubt slowly slipped away with the first few notes.

As the song was finished, there was a brief pause, heavy with stillness and the realization of something much weightier than the joys and sorrows they had been feeling only minutes before. And then there was applause - a roaring, standing ovation of children and adults alike - more than for any other student who had stood on the stage that day.

The student left the stage and almost floated back to his seat. He was greeted by slaps on the back and calls of appreciation. For the length of a song, his elementary social fate had been reversed, and all that is wrong in a school cafeteria was somehow made right. For the length of a song, Christmas was present.

Peace on earth, indeed.

Sarah  – (25 December 2009 at 18:21)  

Wow. Love the story. I have chills, and you told it beautifully -- I was sick with dread as he approached the mic! What a great Christmas story!

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