October 5, 2009

Tale of two cities

Like so many other parents around our nation, my past Friday night was spent under the lights at the traditional high school football game that rallies the community. I am lucky to live in what I consider the sort of town Norman Rockwell captured in his artwork.

We have a town green, a gazebo, and a school rated Excellent by our state. Our kids win in sports, academics and arts. If they didn't occasionally get into mischief, I would wonder if our town were Stepford, like Ira Levin's famous book, though my spouse would assure you, I fail at being a Stepford wife.

We are less than ten miles away from the murder capital of the nation, an area so blighted and depressed that murder must seem a better option than getting out. Our town at times feels like the eye of the hurricane. I got lost once shortly after moving here and purchased a GPS the next day. We're out of touch with our neighbors. I read the newspaper headlines and pretend that I don't understand the reality of "not in my backyard", because it certainly is in my backyard if I peek over my fence. We're lulled into complacency.

Which brings me back to Friday night. Our school hosted one of the city school teams. The juxtaposition was staggering. Their dilapidated buses rolled into the parking lot next to our sparkling astroturfed stadium. Our arrogance was put on the line. The game was tight the first half, ending with us leading 3-0. Then the marching band took the field.

It was a tiny little assembly of 22 students, mostly drums, 4 dancers, and a handful of instruments. With a whisper, they marched in unison and played their music. I looked at our band shell filled with a sea of 150 eager musicians in crisp uniforms and even the city school uniforms seemed to pale. I strained to hear, but they simply didn't have the numbers to make a lot of noise.

For the few minutes they stood in those stadium lights, I looked over to the empty visitor section and realized how hard those kids must work. As our band lined up to follow their halftime show, we paused to listen to the last song the city school kids performed.

The stadium got quiet as the announcer introduced their final number.


They earned mine in spades.


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