Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Dec. 29, 2006

And a child shall lead us

When I arrived at the Friday-morning celebration at Riley County Grade School last week, I could tell the teachers and staff were almost as ready for the holiday break as the students. Trying to keep the kids from bouncing off the walls on the last day before Christmas vacation was no small challenge.

The children entered the gym for the music fest and found their designated spots, marked with 1 for first grade, 2 for second grade and so on. The younger students sat cross-legged on the gym floor, while the older ones sat on the bleachers. Sat isn't quite the proper word for it conveys a calmness that wasn't present. They fidgeted, slid along the floor, poked each other and bounced up and down. Some wore Santa hats while others were adorned with antlers or stars.

The program began with the children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and then Principal Teresa Grant made a few announcements. Excited chattering followed.

When a young man with his violin stepped up to a microphone to play "Silent Night," the chattering faded away. The lyrics of the old hymn could have described the stillness of the gym.

Then the kids erupted into cheers when Joel Taylor, the eighth grade science teacher, came forward to play his guitar and sing.

The middle school chorus was up next, first singing a medley of Christmas tunes and then "Carol of the Bells." The audience was respectfully quiet.

The all-school sing-a-long followed, led by chorus members who stood among the other children as music teacher Carey Zeak accompanied them on the piano. The decibel level rose steadily and soon everyone seemed completely immersed in the holiday spirit. I don't think I've ever heard such joyful, noisy renditions of "Joy to the World," "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Jingle Bells" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

When the program was over, the children were dismissed grade by grade. Soon the gym was empty, except for inevitable forgotten items - a backpack here, a pair of small knit gloves there and a coat that someone would come looking for when it was time to go outside.

But all the way to Manhattan the music was still ringing in my ears.

The next day we had our Freeland Christmas in Salina. My 19-month-old great-niece Sydney again showed me a child's-eye view of holiday joy. Since she lives with her parents in Dallas, I don't really know what types of toys she has or likes. But I had found a stuffed "Nemo" toy and song book and it seemed to strike a chord. Each button played a different tune - "Are You Sleeping," "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and "Good Night, Ladies, Good Night, Gentlemen."

Her favorite seemed to be "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." As it played, she rocked from one foot to the other in time with the music, all the while watching her Grandma Linda sign the words to the tune.

When the notes for "up above the world so high" played, she joined in with "uppa buvva" in her little sing-song voice. We all laughed. Children's voices, so sweet and innocent, can have that effect.

It's easy for us adults to get caught up in the frenzy of the season, but children usually keep us grounded. As teachers and parents, we are showing the way to the next generation. But sometimes we can learn from them. Sometimes a child can lead us.

2006 Index