In the July 18th edition of our local newspaper, the Walton Reporter, there is a picture of three children standing on the steps of the Walton Theatre, Mara, ten years old and her two brothers, Meyer and Maddox, ages seven and four respectively. Mara had just heard that the theatre, for financial reasons, was in danger of closing. The theatre is at the heart of many community events in this small rural town. Mara wanted to help save the theatre. She developed a financial plan with the help of her two brothers. She had a birthday party and invited all her classmates. She told her Mom, “I really don’t need more stuff”, and she asked her friends to donate money to help keep the theatre open. She raised $280 dollars in her first fundraising event. Her goal is to raise $1,000 by the end of the year.
A little earlier in the summer, there was another birthday party down the street from the theatre. The Walton library, also a historical site, is another hub for community activities. The trustees of the library board also face major financial crisis with building repair and other expenses looming. The trustees decided to sponsor an open house to celebrate the library’s 113th birthday and raise awareness of its range of community services and needs. Among many activities at this open house, two were especially notable, a children’s art exhibit and a musical performance by the Walton Central Strings. The latter group was a small chamber group composed of several children from our local school with their teacher. While this event was not a fundraiser per se, it was such a festive community event that it pinpointed something even more important, hope and joy in what we already have in our community.
In both of these two events, children made major contributions to the challenges our community faces.
As a board member of IVC, I ponder the lessons from these events as IVC faces similar daunting challenges in its growth. Board work can be mundane and dry unless it has a keen sense of its purpose and a real sense of hope and joy in its mission. Perhaps it was no accident that Ignatius saw education of children as a primary goal in the early years of the growth of the Society of Jesus. Children can help focus us in ways we need to pay attention to.
Later in July my wife and I went on vacation, putting aside some of our local worries and responsibilities. In a camp on a lake in Maine, we enjoyed a family reunion. Many children encircled us. Their imaginations took flight in nature, and their love of games made us focus on the value of play and festivity.
One other incident will mark this summer for me as special and worth pondering. We went to our annual traditional Irish music camp where late night sessions kept us up past our usual bedtime. At a pause in one night’s session, a young child, about ten years old, began a tune on her concertina. It was a new tune she had just learned. She played the tune through once on her own, and then other musicians joined her for a rousing repeat. A moment of silence, then the little girl’s smile lit up the room. Her mother had a hard time getting her to leave the session and go to bed, even at 1:15 A.M.
This little girl told my wife earlier that she had found the perfect instrument and wanted to pursue it with all her heart. It seems she found her heart’s desire not in consumer goods, but in developing and sharing one of her gifts.
That child’s tune and her smile linger in my memory, a gift that gives me hope.