Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Standing Ovation

6) The Standing Ovation (October 16th, 2010)

That a person should receive one in a lifetime is good for the soul. It’s a measure of approval from an audience who feels treated. But it is not the measure of a man. And that a person might take it personally, either way, had the others stood or not, is also not a measure of the treat. Some speeches, performances, events have this sobering, quiet, tearful end; and who would stand for that, except out of obligation, or because everyone else is standing? Yet they stood for me, at the beginning and at the end. They stood for me, these old boys of my yesteryears, along with some of the old masters, and together we celebrated the moment. Still, let me not fool myself, some were indeed obliged.

So much is in the moment. There was this moment that we first passed into the grounds of our high school; the moment we first met a new friend; the moment we first joined a team, tried out, did our homework, had a cigarette. So we wound our way, moment by moment, to the present. So too for each of us, even unto the moment that you read this blather of exposition, waiting as it is for the interesting moment of the inciting force.

Collisions of the long ago ran rife. Hands were shaken. Eyes met. Souls searched for recognition, validation, depth. Bonds were made. Bonds were broken. Touchstones became weighted in the psyche, the heart, the instinct, and lives were taken on or cast aside. Have we really grown up? There were men there who gave each other accord, locked into avowed renewal, whilst others gave a brief nod, a passing glance, a hail fellow well met, and slid by. Such is the stuff of life. Were we really expecting more?

They stood for me, mummy and daddy, they stood for me. I’d not yet even opened my mouth and your old son from a poor family was suddenly given a peer’s recognition, or was it pity? No, better not go there, although, given my wheel-condition, one may hardly blame me for wondering. And then, once I settled into the delivery along with the unfamiliar awkwardness of a clicker in my right for changing pictures that I could not see on a screen behind me, the speech in my left hand that at times doesn’t work so well or so steadily, I wrapped them in the past, led them picture by picture toward the present, and exhorted them to consider the future. They liked it! They stood again; clap-clapping. The committee congratulated me. And the thanks went on and on.

But more important than the climax is the denouement. What now? How do we really contribute to a campus burgeoning with the evidence of wealth and privilege despite its appeal to our pockets, to our bank-accounts, and to our senses? How do we foster an ongoing scholarship for needy students? How do we determine such a student’s potential, the worthiness of our investment, the validity of the involvement, the value of the gift?

Gifts given are like standing ovations. We usually earn them, but what we do with them is up to us. We take them for granted, or we thank the audience, or we take them as challenges to continue to do the good work, but at the end of the day, the end of the speech, the end of one’s life, it’s time to continue to pay. The value is not in how much, but in how sincerely. One stands up for things that are meaningful. One gives to things that have value. One stands up for the good in us all; clap, clap, clapping for one and all.

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