Last week Ava performed in her elementary school's talent show. I was excited to go and watch her sing, particularly because last year she was too shy to audition for the show. This year, after ten months of voice lessons and a few performances at recitals and Kiwanis festivals, her confidence had surged and she was ready to stand up in front of her friends and sing.
It's a beautiful thing to watch confidence blooming. It reminds me of a tightly furled rose when it begins to open, releasing its fragrance and inspiration to the world. So many things conspire to damage our confidence, but when it is growing, there is no hiding it. I have yet to find a valid substitute for true self confidence. When it's there, you can see it, and when it's missing, you have a job to do to build it up.
I loved the spirit of support which existed in the school gym before, during and after the talent show. The children filed in, a low buzz of excitement in the air, and one by one each performer was called to the stage to play the piano, act in a skit, sing, dance or play the drums. Whole classes cheered when their friend's name was called, and the entire gym burst into applause when each performance ended.
When Ava got up to sing, looking so small as she stood in front of the microphone and faced three hundred students and about two dozen parents, I felt a moment of nerves on her behalf. I felt proud of her, for taking this risk at the age of eight, for believing in herself enough to try singing a capella in front of her friends. She introduced herself and her song, and then sang, putting her whole heart into it, and bowing when she was finished.
I grinned at her, and watched as she made her way back to her seat, her classmates hi-fiving her as she walked. Amazing things can happen in a supportive and loving environment. Dreams can flourish and grow, and anything seems possible. Every single child who got up to perform, from the youngest to the oldest, received loud applause and cheering. No one felt alone and isolated as they stepped out to risk. There was a spirit of acceptance and beauty in that small school gymnasium, and I was inspired by it.