I wrote the following piece years ago for E-Magazine, but it is still pertinent today. Always remember, Never Stop Dreaming.
On University of Illinois home football game days, the university's marching band, the Marching Illini, gather about an hour before the game inside the Armory to warm up their instruments. Next door, on the lawn in front of the Harding Band Building, the drumline assembles, drawing a crowd with their precision drumming. Each percussionist -- bass, tenor, snare -- wears a sober, very business-like expression while their hands fly, beating out incredibly clean, crisp and exhilarating sounds in alliance with the flashy cymbal players. To say this drumming event is soul-stirring is like saying winning the big lottery would be fun. Words can't adequately describe what it feels like to be in the midst of such talent and skill. It borders on the spiritual, in a mystical, cosmic sort of way. In fact, a quote from the drumline home page says it well: Any sufficiently advanced drumming is indistinguishable from magic.
If music was light, the Marching Illini would be a prism, casting an array of beautifully shimmering sounds out upon the world. The brass and woodwinds sound like heaven and make my heart soar. Percussionists punctuate and deliver power to the band. Admittedly, I'm partial to percussionists. My son plays the tenors. I know, you'd never have guessed.
I've stood in the crowd on the band building lawn watching my handsome son's participation and choked back tears. Okay, I'm his mom and yes, I'm proud of his ability. But it's more than that. It's a matter of all the cosmic tumblers dropping into place, confirming that life is good.
On a crisp fall day back about 10 years ago, my husband and I sat with our two youngest boys in the stands at Memorial Stadium. It was their first college football experience and they were really taking it all in. Part way through the game, members of the Marching Illini visited our section of the bleachers and played a song. To my 9- and 6-year-old sons, those band members seemed like celebrities.
"One of them smiled at me, " Andrew said, eyes wide.
"I touched one of their capes," Daniel whispered, as though he'd just touched a god.
That's when the light struck Daniel and he decided someday he wanted to be one of the Marching Illini too.
It's that little boy I think of when I watch Daniel stand tall in his place among the other tenors. I think of all the times he's felt the very human ache of aspiration -- to pitch the winning pitch, see his name on the basketball team roster after try-outs, get a date with "that one" girl -- and maybe felt the sting of disappointment. Seeing him grow into a wonderful young man is awesome enough. Watching him and listening to his dynamic drumming, I feel the glory of the symbolic message he has brought to life wash over me. It says, Believe.
Seems pretty simple, but it stands out like a bright star in a world of unknowns. Will my family be safe? Will my kids learn good lessons? Will they stay away from drugs, cigarettes, too much sugar, caffeine, pesticides, and reckless driving tickets? How many things in life can I manage and control thereby making certain my kids are safe, healthy, and happy? It's enough to make a parent go bananas!
Then I see Daniel performing with the band on the field at Memorial Stadium. With the brilliant sounds of their rendition of a popular song like Jurassic Park filling the stadium, I remember the little 9-year-old who had a dream, a glimpse of himself as how he could be. He grew into a man and made the dream come true.
Witnessing your child bring a dream into fruition is one of the rewards of being a parent. Not because you, the parent, get a pat on the back for your child's accomplishment. Giving them stability and a sense of themselves so that they can succeed is a parent's job. What I'm referring to is the confirmation that life is worth living, no matter what. The universal truth of believing that we can have dreams renews itself in our kids.
In dark times of worry, sickness, disappointment, or strife, we can believe in a world that is as much light as dark. Our children's dreams are proof.