Posts Tagged ‘civility’

It is so easy to point out what is wrong with people or situations these days. It’s all around us all the time. The person who can’t hold a door open for the next customer at the convenience store; the person who races you to a parking spot; the person who blows through a stop sign almost hitting you and gives a look that says YOU were wrong; the person who thinks taking a gun and killing a bunch of strangers is the answer to all their problems….and the list goes on and on and on.

There are many days I shake my head and wonder just why everyone is so angry ALL.THE.TIME.

Take this example for instance–it is one that is my greatest fears given the world we live in.  A man who lives near a high school doesn’t like the “noise” the school’s marching band produces. Answer: take a pellet gun and shoot the kids. Seriously?

But this blog post is NOT about that recent news story, nor is it about gun violence and/or control. It is about realizing if you just look a little closer and TAKE SOME TIME you will find many people who are still GOOD PEOPLE out there.

A few weeks ago I was well into my second metric century ride when it was clear I had misjudged the weather. This was not a sponsored event–it was just me, my ride, and the road. I had two water bottles mixed with half Gatorade/half water and a bunch of riding appropriate snacks in my jersey pockets. I was good. I was set. I could do this.  …and then the humidity jumped and the temps rose from 68 degrees to 81 steadily over the first 30 miles. With this not being a sponsored event I did not have food stops to look forward to–I had to get back to my car after the first loop in order to replenish supplies. That first loop was 38 miles. Down one water bottle and well into the second it was clear I wouldn’t make it back to my car with 8 miles to go and feeling VERY dehydrated.

Rolling into Port Penn along back country Delaware roads I saw a small bait shop that was open. I went in and asked if I could refill my water bottles. This was a simple “mom & pop” type store. Nothing fancy. Just local folks providing small services to local fishermen. The woman looked at me, said “Of course!” Do you need bottled water or Gatorade. We have some of that if you want more than just refilling these bottles.”

And that was when I realized I had only taken a credit card with me and no cash. I told her as much and she said:

“Do you ride through here often?”

I said, “Yes, it’s part of my regular route these last few months.”

She said, “Then the next time you come through, whether tomorrow, next week, next month, you can pay me $3 for this extra bottle of water and this bottle of Gatorade. You cyclists come through all the time and are always so nice.”

I said thank you and promised her I would be back through later that same day. She waved me off and again said whenever I came through would be just fine.

I’m sure you know how the story played out but here you go anyway:  I got back to my car just fine. There was no way I was going to do the second part of the ride–it was just too oppressive and I was not prepared as well as I thought I was. I got in my car and drove back to the little store and put a $5 bill on the counter. I yelled “thank you” to the woman who was now in the back steaming crabs. She looked up, I waved, smiled and left.

Two weeks later I rode through Port Penn again. I was well prepared for my ride but I wanted to stop in and say hello regardless. There she was, smiling at me behind the counter. She reached into the cash box (not a register mind you) and pulled out $2. She said, “You overpaid me last time.” I smiled, went over to the refrigerator, pulled out a bottle of Gatorade and said, “Now we’re even.”

Whether it’s a nice couple who are barely scraping by to make a living and do a good deed for a road weary cyclist, or a surgeon who takes time out of a conference in Vienna to contact you about the concerning email you sent two hours earlier, or another doc who decides to go back to his office–after having left hours earlier for the day/weekend–in order to take care of one of your students…take a moment and look around folks: there really still are GOOD people in the world.

A crisp September Saturday morning is at hand.  Coffee is steaming in a mug.  The pup and kitties are scattered around the house searching for an early morning sunspot in order to warm themselves while they snore away the rest of the morning.  And me…..?  I’m sitting in front of a computer screen drinking said coffee while considering various schedules for rehearsal later this morning.

The life of a college band director.  Piece of cake.  Let’s face it, what do we REALLY do after all? After 26 years of teaching I still hear the same thing from my academic colleagues:  “You’re the band director?  What do you teach? Do you teach any classes?” Of course that’s what they continue to ask year after year because let’s face it, marching band, heck, music in general, certainly isn’t a class!  …sigh….

So what do I teach?  Let’s see what kind of list I can create off the top of my head:

  • Respect
  • Discipline
  • Team Work
  • Responsibility
  • Commitment
  • Dedication
  • Leadership Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Teaching Skills
  • Trust
  • Loyalty
  • Integrity
  • Obligation
  • Time Management
  • Organizational Skills
  • Honor
  • Courtesy
  • Civility
  • and the pursuit of individual as well as group excellence.

But Heidi, academic course have exams!  Well of course they do, and so does the Marching Band.  Every single performance is a MAJOR exam.  Think outside the box people—just because one doesn’t sit at a desk and put pencil to paper does not mean that they are not taking an exam. My exams are administered in front of 23,000 people on a regular basis who give you a grade each and every time.  Not only are the students being tested but so is the staff and so am I.  These exams can be measured according to the same rubric of any other exam–in fact, they are!

Each and every day I require my students (and myself) to do better than the day before. Maybe that means coming to rehearsal having memorized more music. Maybe that means a person has developed a wider range of dynamic control on their instrument. Or maybe that means a person made an extra effort and arrived 5 minutes early to help ANOTHER student “get better.”

Pursuit of excellence is a journey–you do not ever arrive at excellence.  “Hey look gang! We made it! We’re now excellent!”  …yeah, right.  If only it were so.  The journey or pursuit is a continuous process–one for the individual and another one for the total group.  Today’s CLASS will continue the pursuit of excellence for the band (and myself) using all the skill sets mentioned above. Today’s EXAM will tell the band (and myself) whether we made the correct choices toward further excellence and also what we need to work on in preparation for the next exam.

Music is entertainment….sure. I get that. But you know what? Entertainers work just as hard as anyone else in this world, and their contributions to the beauty of life is just as important as the next major technological breakthrough.

Ok, time to chase the dream….Ah-GAIN!