We Won….Now What?

Our kids just won a Superior Rating for their Festival in Disney this past weekend. But, what does that really mean. Is it more than the hardware they brought home? I think so. Is it about the respect and admiration they gained from the other groups attending who watched them? Maybe, partly. What does, winning, doing the best they can at this competition/festival really mean for them?

I would like to think it is more than all of the stuff that goes along with being a trophy winner. I would like to think it is how each one of these kids grew as an individual on their journey. It’s about the perseverance and the integrity they have learned along the way. It’s about them learning compassion for themselves and others that made them winners in my eyes. I could care less if they were the top ranked children’s theatre in the nation or counted the number of medals they won. None of that matters to me. It’s seeing the oldest child in our troupe, take the time to stop and encourage one of the younger ones even when he may have been slightly annoyed by them. It’s about our group taking the time to stop, clap and compliment another group that went after it because it was the right thing to do. It’s about half of our cast being sick the week before we went, and the rest pulling together and picking up the slack for the ones who couldn’t be there. It’s about the love they show to each other even though they probably seemed like the most unlikely to be friends in the beginning.

These kids chose to travel together, eat together, laugh together and cry together. Learning to pick the other up when they fall, helping the under dog. That’s what our Trope is about and that is what makes them winners to me. So, while winning a trophy is nice and all, it means more to me to watch these kids mature into young adults who have class and that’s is all the trophy I need,

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Winning-What Makes a Winner?

As we prepare to take our theatre troupe of 25 extraordinary kids down to Disney to compete in a Theatre Festival, that got me to wondering, how do I define if a kid is a winner or not? One might logically say, well if they get a trophy, then they are a winner. But all a trophy really is, is just some plastic, wood and screws. I don’t think that defines a winner to me. You might say, the ones who score highest in whatever their competing at would be the winner and technically, yes you are right, but I believe being a winner is much more than a score. Also, way more important.

I know, I know, it’s cliché to say everyone is a winner in our eyes so I am not going to say it. I think a winner is someone who learned the valuable lesson to be learned in their competition journey.It’s not about beating someone out, or being better than someone else. I believe you are a winner if you became a changed person on your journey. Looking around our rehearsal the other day, filled with kids with last remainders of flu and fever. Garbed in surgical masks, and armed with hand sanitizer, these children looked as though have been through a battle. But you know, they got themselves out of bed and made it through 4 hours of rehearsals not because someone made them, but because they felt obligated to their fellow cast members.

When one of our older kids has been frustrated with one of our youngest members all year with their lack of focus and experience, stops and realizes to accept them for what they are and praise them for what they do right instead of pointing out their faults. A youngster who only cared about their role at the beginning of this journey, realizes its not about the individual, it’s about the group as a whole.

These kids have learned the value of self discipline, perseverance, accepting everyone with faults and all, how to take criticism and learn from it and the value of friendship. This is what defines a winner in my eyes, So yes, these kids have already won in my eyes. Any trophy the receive is just icing on the cake. We have watched these kids overcome, their own personal road blocks and forge ahead with a passion for life. These kids have learned about compassion for others and acceptance of them, warts and all. Each of these kids have navigated their own personal journey, and have made it through to the other side stronger than they were at the beginning. They have won the competition.

The Value of Feeling Accepted

Once again we are dealing with the weekly crisis of my daughter saying no one will play with her at recess. Now I tell you  this, not because I want pity for my daughter, although I do feel her pain, but because it brings me to the idea of what is the correlation between tween’s, preteen’s struggles and theatre? I’ve said it before, kids have it rough growing up, and you couldn’t pay me to go back and live it over again. I see so  many kids, even just through my program, who are having a hard time in life. They are bullied at school, they have learning disabilities, they are misunderstood by their parents, they are anxious kids who are just kind of drifting aimlessly through life without anything to latch onto. That is truly sad, and breaks my heart.

Often times, these kids probably don’t excel in athletics and some may not do great academically. Some don’t  do good, even if they have found the arts, in very competitive arts programs that are cut throat factories. There is a large population of kids that just need to be nurtured, to be listened to, to have a friend who understands them. I think we as grownups in the community, need to offer kids a place where they feel like they are accepted just as they are, taught that they are special and unique, given life skills  and confidence they can draw upon everyday and feel safe.

Unlike sports or some other extracurricular activities, I think the arts lends itself most to filling this void. The neat thing about theatre, is that anyone, any age, any body type with or without disabilities can find a place to fit in. Are they all going to be Broadway actors? No, but can they make memories, build friendships, find their passion, find their purpose on this Earth? Maybe, it is a start in the right direction.

So, as I tell my daughter with the recess situation, it’s ok you haven’t found your niche yet because there is someone out there who needs a friend just like you in a group who will make you feel valued and accepted for who you are.

Roadmap

What if someone told your kids they could follow their own road map in life? What if they were told it is okay not to be like everyone else? I think if I were a kid again and someone told me that, it would be like a huge weight was lifted off of me. Whether they even realize it or not, I believe our kids are pressured to fit into these cookie cutter molds either by wanting to fit in with peers or by well meaning parents. wouldn’t it be neat for a kid to feel okay with being unique and celebrating the fact that God made them special for a reason?

I believe theatre can help a child celebrate that uniqueness. If given the right environment, I believe theatre can help a child feel safe in being whoever they want to be. I didn’t exactly fit into any one group growing up and often felt out of place. It was in theatre I met the friends who celebrated the uniqueness of who I was and helped me see God gave me a gift to share with the world. That’s what I think we truly all want for today’s kids. I honestly believe if kids were allowed to be who they are designed to be, there would be a lot less angry, depressed and lost kids out there.

If they could find a group of peers who supported them and loved them for who they are. For what mainstream America saw as flaws in these kids, this group would see as facets that made their special personality. From there, their confidence could soar and they could take the world by storm. Let’s show today’s youth they don’t have to be the jock, the scholar, the cheerleader, the nerd. Let’s show them that they get to choose the path they want to take in life and they won’t be disappointing anyone by their choice.