The night began with the poised and commanding presence of a young adult with autism who once banged his head against concrete floors. It closed with beautifully enunciated words delivered by a young man who was speechless until the age of eight.
In between was a steady stream of extraordinary “ordinary moments.”
Tiny elves jingled bells and smiled out with joy at the 300+ spectators in the audience – a sight for which it is impossible to prepare. A set of reindeer hokey pokied their way into our hearts and we saw bravery in action as composure was quickly gained despite emotional upheaval. Children, who once paid no attention to other people beamed at their families, festooned as happy Christmas trees. Preschoolers just learning gross motor skills line danced across the stage and lassoed our attention with their snazzy cowboy costumes and fancy footwork. First graders who are just emerging verbally stepped up to the microphone to tell jokes and worked the crowd like vaudeville pros. A class made Santa appear before our very eyes – as we watched in amazement at their equally magical ability to wait and to take turns. A group who is learning social skills along with their academics demonstrated a range of emotions, including a blue Elvis, a distant girlfriend, and a cheerful Christmas tree– and actually held hands to take their bow! Second and third graders conveyed their memorized lines with perfect timing, tugging on a stuck Santa and collapsing on the floor on cue, all without losing self-control. 4th and 5th graders with sensory issues donned storm trooper masks and handled light sabers. Another group of 4th and 5th graders caroled us with bells, never losing their composure even when a bell slipped away. A K5/1st grade group, some with autism and some without, blessed us with their acapella rendition of “Let There Be Peace On Earth,” with synchronized sign language and sincerity shining on every face.
Hope abounded tonight.