Reminder to spread a little light
This was a strange weekend for me, a weekend steeped in the surreal.
That feeling grew out of the juxtaposition of three events. The first, of course, was the shooting at Arapahoe High School. I coached one season at Arapahoe (a lifetime ago), so it felt a little bit personal to hear that name on the television. But, as details emerged, it seemed like this was less a murderous rampage than it was the desperate temper tantrum of someone who had become dangerously unmoored from reality. In the end, all we had was a very public suicide from another narcissistic youth who decided to take an innocent with him.
Poor Claire Davis wasn’t a target, though I’m sure that’s little comfort to her family. She, like many before her, was simply in the wrong place at a moment when Hell broke through into our little plane of existence.
The second event was the sudden death of the parent of a former student of mine. This one was more than a little bit personal. We had known the family since I taught their youngest daughter, and, one summer, had spent a great deal of time with them at swim team practices. And, though the circumstances of her death are very different than Claire Davis’ situation, it really drove home the idea that time is precious. We are never promised tomorrow, so it falls to each of us to do what we can with today.
Which brings me to the third event. On Saturday night I went to the Holiday Collage Concert at Arvada West High School. What an amazing event! This is a concert in which, at any given moment, one group is performing, another is transitioning from performing to backstage to make room for another group, while a small group or soloist is preparing to perform from the wings of the auditorium. It is a concert format that is notable for its constant variety.
Also notable is that there were over 400 students performing that night. Roughly one-quarter of the student population of Arvada West H.S. was involved in this show, and it speaks volumes about the quality of the teaching and of the culture of the school that that many students are a part of that program.
Less noted, but no less important, was the fact that one brave, composed young lady—who had just lost her mother—was also on stage performing.
I know in the wake of events like Arapahoe, we are always tempted to ask “what’s wrong with kids today?” What is wrong with kids, when one young man is so incensed at being disciplined by a teacher that months later he would come to school intent on murder? What is wrong with kids, that they can’t handle any of life’s disappointments without becoming violent?
My answer is always “nothing that music can’t fix.” Nothing is wrong with kids that performing for thousands in one weekend can’t cure. Nothing is wrong with kids that art and beauty and camaraderie can’t make better.
If 400 kids—plus one—can give up three nights in a row the week before finals to spread Light in the world, then I have reason to have great optimism for kids these days. This is the Season of Light, and children do an amazing job of sharing their Light with the world—Lights that no burst of darkness can dim.
So pray for Claire Davis, and pray for her family, and pray that we keep her Light burning, even in death. And pray that all of these children we’ve been charged with caring for find their source of Light and find a means of expressing it. And, like these kids, take every opportunity—today!—to spread a little Light in the world.
Michael Alcorn is a music teacher and fitness instructor who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. He graduated from Alameda High School and the University of Colorado-Boulder.