Such were the agonizing times of Kid-dom. Whether it was memorizing and reciting a scripture verse or short poem, or playing an instrument, singing a song, or even performing a bit of drama, it was a stressful time on Center Stage.
Not that it was a big one. But that didn’t matter. It was all the mandatory preparation and the grown-ups’ stern warnings about getting it right in front of everybody. It was a big deal.
… Not that I can remember any piece of any of the Pieces I ever recited…
But many of them were quite similar to the now well-known declaration of Buddy the Elf: “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!” You know, when you’re a little impressionable kid, that’s really a huge pile of words to get just right.
I do, however, remember how we got to dress in plaid bathrobes to play Shepherds Abiding in the Fields. And how, one Eastertime, my cousin wore his green army helmet to play a Roman soldier.
The annual production spared no one. Even the really little kids, the ones who were too little to even know what was going on, were sent out there. This cherished image is of my little sister Ann and her friend Jimmy, who paraded holding hands all the way from the staging area behind the upright piano to the platform, faced the audience with the signs hung around their little cherubic necks, then returned to wild acclaim.
Our individual and collective behaviors solicited both pride and embarrassment in our parents. For our grandparents and all the other old people, the spectacle was highly entertaining.
Afterwards, back in the classroom, we’d be rewarded with a small box of mixed chocolates and an orange from our Teacher: Presents! Next up: the real deal with Santa at home—yeah!
Despite all the trauma however, the ordeal developed character—not that we cared. But it did force us into such real out-of-the-comfort-zone growth experiences as public speaking, addressing an audience of peers and authority figures, overcoming fears and nervousness, exercising brain power, learning new information and how “practice makes perfect.”
I also remember how one little girl learned the power of a bribe. (Or shall I say “incentivized reward.”) All through the rehearsals, she refused to go on stage. But then her mother discovered just the right enticement in the promise of a special lollipop. (Did she bring some for all of us?) When it came to it, the girl delivered forthrightly, then ran directly to claim her reward from Mom hiding behind the piano.
After all these years, I’ve come to value sharing My Piece. It’s proclaimed a little differently now, and disseminated on a blog in a way no one could have imagined so long ago. Yet the sharing of our thoughts, concepts, ideas and ideals in a public forum remains a noble and cherished cause of personal expression and communal liberty.
So I now choose to share with you one of my favorite Pieces this Christmastime. It was written by the Nobel Prize winner of Literature in 1928, Sigrid Undset:
And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans—and all that lives and moves upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused—and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.
And as Ann and Jimmy so endearingly express: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!