Like the rainbow of flavors offered up in a single roll of Life Savers, kids are not all the same.
Some kids are not born athletes. They’re too small for sports, or too large, or just don’t fit in. Others have obstacles thrown in their way by adults who prey on the weak, shattering youthful confidence. For these children, the age-old ritual of choosing up teams itself can be humiliating for those always picked last.
But all kids want to be part of something bigger than themselves, to belong. All kids want to make a contribution, to believe they are good at something, to feel good about themselves, to not feel useless.
And every single child is inherently creative – it’s what makes us human, the divine spark that elevates and animates us.
If you will imagine for a second that a school is like a passenger liner proudly carrying its precious cargo into the future, then the children that can’t play competitive sports, the kids that don’t fit in, the kids that are bullied and ostracized, those wrestling with existential challenges, are like a passenger that has fallen overboard, drifting silently away, ever further into the night.
For the children falling further and further behind, left to navigate stormy seas on their own, the arts can act like life preservers, a path to something better, a way back to the light, and, to stretch this metaphor further, can serve as a lifeline back to the mother ship heading off oblivious without them into the future.
For me it was music that provided the lifeline I needed to get through those rough times in school. Music lessons were a constant, providing struture, teaching the value of discipline and practice, offering the thrill of creative expression, of contributing something beautiful to a world that can seem all too hopelessly Hobbesian to the castaway kids who are the subjects of this crie de coeur.
Youth orchestra offered the joy of belonging, of being part of something bigger than myself, of learning to coordinate intricate patterns with dozens of others, and the thrill for the first time of limning some of the greatest creative minds in the history of the planet – Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms and Tchaikovsky!
For my partner, Tom, it was the visual arts that helped him escape bullying at his high school and gain recognition for an extraordinary talent, and acting that took him all the way from a small town to the footlights of Broadway.
For both of us, growing up worlds apart, it was that early lifesaver – the arts in our lives – that helped us find ourselves, our life’s path, and each other.
The province of BC is one of the wealthiest provinces in Canada (of the world in fact). Yet we also have the highest percentage of child poverty in the nation and the lowest per capita contribution to the arts. Those two grim statistics are inextricably linked in a compounding matrix of misery.
Where’s the cry of “Man overboard!?”
That kids are falling behind us as our gold-plated ship of state sails on oblivious is indisputable.
Only one question remains. Have we become so inured to seeing kids floundering in the deep end that we don’t even bother anymore to throw a lifesaver to the latest victim to fall overboard?