We were the grade seven class and that made us the most senior students in our elementary school. We were intramural house leaders, library helpers, and on one special night in December, the Christmas Concert crew. We wondered what special job we might be given. MC? Ushers? Stage hands? Or perhaps the most coveted job—the person in charge of choosing and playing the pre-concert music.
I got none of those assignments. My job was to go to every classroom and ask each teacher what, if anything, they might need. Most of the classrooms had a similar atmosphere; students giggling nervously or rehearsing lines they would soon be delivering. How lucky they were, I thought. They had speaking parts. My class was doing a short play with just a handful of speaking roles. The rest of us would be sitting on benches in the background to create the look of a classroom.
I carried out my task and reported to the principal who was checking on things in the gymnasium. He also happened to be our homeroom teacher so when I returned to the classroom there was an intern teacher supervising us, and she was overseeing a final rehearsal of our play. But something was different. The girl who should have been sitting in the front wasn't there. I found out she was sick and wouldn't be going on stage. So while I was out walking from room to room checking in on teachers, back in my classroom a role had been re-cast. I knew all the lines, but I didn't get the chance to be considered because I wasn't there.
The next day at school was a highly anticipated one since it was the last day before Christmas holidays. There would be a classroom party, games, and an afternoon movie, causing a greater level of excitement than we typically felt as we all made our way into the classroom. Well, not all. The girl who had been sick the evening before wasn't at school the next day, either. Too sick to be at the Christmas program and too sick to be at school on one of the best days of the year. Yet I hadn't given her a second thought the night before. She had been looking forward to the program every bit as much as the rest of us, but I was so focused on myself, and on missing out on her role, I hadn't thought about her and how sick she must have been to miss it all.
I wish I could say that sort of self-centeredness is relegated to a childhood incident but I can't. I know there have been all kinds of times when I've been so caught up in what I'm doing I fail to see what is happening to others. Like when the power goes out and I question how I'll get my work done or what we'll eat for supper. Maybe I could think instead of those going out making repairs—sometimes at odd hours and in bad weather, or those who live in places that hold out no hope of power being restored because there was none in the first place.
Or when the waiting room is full and I wonder how long it will be before my appointment. Perhaps I could think of those with little or no access to health care of any kind. The 400 million who lack essential services, or the 100 million who are pushed into extreme poverty because of what it costs to receive any treatment at all.
Around me are those battling disease, coping with grief, facing financial heartache or watching a loved one walk a painful path. Those who have been so blindsided by something, they simply wish they could return to a time when things seemed far more…ordinary.
Hopefully there are many special events and unique days dotting our calendars that we can anticipate highly. But there's also something to be said for the days that are filled with things a bit more typical. Commonplace. Think of all those around us who crave an uneventful day. They are the ones who would love nothing more than to be sitting on the bench at the back providing support, and not the ones at the center of the story. The important thing is to make sure we see them all; whether they speak out or not. That's my outlook.