Am I Getting Through?

I went to a little celebration at my son’s school – St. Katherine of Siena – a couple of weeks ago. Every month, the school gives out Peacemaker awards to a couple students from each grade, and Gavin was fortunate enough to receive one. The award is given to students who are kind to all of their fellow classmates. Naturally, I was beyond proud. Trust me that after a rough few years on the health front after he was first born, I’m not fixated on honor rolls and homeruns. If he’s happy, I’m happy.

At the end of the little mass, a group of students I hadn’t noticed were brought up to the front of the church. There was no mistaking that these kids were given quite a burden in life. Some had limited or no eyesight, others were hearing impaired.

All were smiling nervously.

A piano in the distance started and they began in song, together. Where some sang the words, others “signed” the words. I watched, choked up, and started to focus on one boy, probably around 8 or 9. He was “signing” away, his young hands fluid and flashing in cadence to the music, expressing himself in a special way – in his way. He had such energy of self-confidence and pride around him. The intensity with which he signed was palpable – I’ve really never seen something like that.

The last song ended, and I saw him wipe a tear away from his eye. It was stunning. I have since been lost in interpretation of what was going on in his mind. Was he so happy he started to cry? Or was there something to him not being able to hear the music, or hear his classmate’s voices in unison? Did he wish he could express more than the language that only he and those who are hearing impaired, and with the hearing impaired, understand?

I wonder if he thought to himself: “Am I getting through?”

Whether or not how accurate my assessment was, it broke my heart just the same. Not to compare to a lifelong affliction, but ultimately we’ve all been there in some respects.

Am I getting through?

In the creative business, getting through is always the crux of a successful partnership. And there’s a reason agencies don’t bring champagne to creative presentations – things can go sideways at any time. People are people, and even the strongest of reasoning around great concepts don’t always break through.

It’s what can make the creative business as challenging as it is joyful when the breakthroughs do happen.

I referenced Antonio Carlos Jobim in a previous post, and the intensity of his stare in-between recording Girl From Ipanema. Creativity is an intense business to be a part of, no matter how you slice it. I’m always shocked at the surprise of visitors to our space in especially intense creative periods that remark “how quiet it seems.” If only they could hear the reverberations in all of our minds as we look for gold in the atmosphere and create something special, they would need a pair of Bose noise canceling headphones to prevent from passing out. It is a chaotic symphony of Mozart woven into the grinding of tanks rolling over stone.

I’m never going to tire of looking for the breakthroughs. And I’m never going to let the challenges of getting through ever stop me. Because it feels too good when you get there, especially when you get there together.

I’m also going to pay a visit to a special school and the young man who inspired me with his own language that day.

– P. Madden, Top Cat