Dragging my tired self to my locker one Tuesdayafternoon, I picked up my books and shoved them into my bag. I pulled out mysports bag, dreading cross-country practice and thinking of all I had to do thatnight: write an English paper, do a practice math SAT and study for chemistry.That's when a cheery voice broke in, "Hey, Katie, don't forget about ourSPAC performance tonight at the hospital. See you at seven!"
Thevoice belonged to Adam, the president of Students in the Performing Arts for theCommunity. He and a few of our school's symphonic band members (including me)started the club because we wanted to put some of our time and talents back intothe community by performing at hospitals and nursing homes. At that moment,however, I saw the performance as just one more thing to add to my list.
Iarrived at the hospital with my flute in one hand and my chemistry book in theother, hoping to sneak in a little studying. I walked through the sliding doorsinto a cream-colored hall and saw an audience of older people in wheelchairs.Some were sleeping, others sat with blank stares, but a few looked joyful. Thosewere the faces, rosy with excitement, that made me smile. In their midst Ispotted a thin, pale girl who was no more than 13. Thick black braces engulfedher tiny legs, and I wondered why someone so young was stuck in thisplace.
Toward the end of the hour, after Bach and show tunes, my friendSarah asked if anyone had any requests. The girl raised her arm and asked if shecould sing "My Heart Will Go On." Sarah happily invited her to sharethe microphone and the girl hobbled past the sea of wheelchairs. When she andSarah began to sing, I noticed the girl's cheeks became pinker and her eyesshined. At that moment, I forgot my homework and remembered the true meaning ofSPAC: improving the quality of life for others.
After the performance weall talked with the girl and discovered she wants to be a singer. She told usthat singing with Sarah had helped her remember her goal. As she spoke, shelooked down, self-consciously, at her thin legs. Then, she asked if we could allget together for a picture so she could remember this night and never give up onher dream.
I stayed longer than I'd planned. I was amazed by what one hourof my time could do - help someone go from feeling like a prisoner in a hospitalto feeling like Celine Dion performing at a concert. That night, I lingered atthe dinner table with my family. I also called a friend I had not talked to in awhile. I did not do too well on the chemistry test the next day, but it was justone test, and I knew I could take it again. There could be no retake for myexperience that night at the hospital, except the one I'll always replay in myheart.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.