Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The annual ball

Day 126.

Spent last weekend at the annual statewide gathering for the DeMolay boys.

Imagine a mixture of 250 teenage boys and 25 teenage girls, trapped together for 4 days and 3 nights in a luxury hotel, far away from their own homes, hyped up on sugar and caffeine, and simply thrilled to stay up all night talking with each other.

Now imagine that you have been given the thankless task of coordinating and enforcing the "evening curfew rules" for said teenagers ... for ... all ... four ... days.

Of course, I had help (thank goodness), in the form of other adult volunteers, but since I was the coordinator, I ended up staying awake each night to make sure that things went smoothly. (Going to bed at 3am each evening, getting up again at 8am each morning, and doing the same thing again that night). To say that I was tired after the end of the weekend would be a gross understatement - in the end, I was completely and utterly exhausted.

But - enough about me.

The real focus of the weekend is to bring all of these young people together for fun, recreation, competition, some seriousness, debate, celebrations, award ceremonies, crowning achievements, lots of good food, and of course - the Annual Ballroom Dance.

My guys had a wonderful time (they were perfect angels this year, really!!), and the group came together on a much deeper level after all was said and done. The young ladies were charming and beautiful, and the event was really well planned; it was probably the best DeMolay event that most of those kids had seen in their lifetimes.

Wait - there's more to it.

The boy who was elected as leader for the coming year had made arrangements with a local charity to shave his head. (The purpose of the charity is to create wigs for little kids who have cancer, because they lose their natural hair when they are undergoing chemotherapy). Anyway, the idea is that people with long hair can donate their hair to this organization, and the hair will be used to make a wig for a kid. People like me, whose hair is too short for a wig, usually just contribute some cash to the cause.

I'm not a rich man, but I try to give whenever I can, and I had decided in advance to make a contribution in honor of this young man who was having his hair buzzed for a good cause. I watched in admiration as he went from long-haired, to nearly-bald.

After he was finished, the elected girl's leader sat down, and my heart dropped. She decided to follow suit, and have her head shaved as well. I recall the event in slow motion. Long blonde locks falling in clumps to the floor. Frankly, I was in awe. Sure, it takes some guts for a guy to walk around with a shaved head, but not nearly so much as it takes for a girl to do the same thing. This was one of the most self-less, courageous, and spontaneous acts that I have ever witnessed, and I was not alone in my assessment.

One by one, the other kids followed suit. One by one, they traded their finely combed hair for grizzled baldness. The music was thumping in the background, and the crowd cheered everytime a new bald head emerged. It was spiritual, magical, positively hypnotic. It moved me inside.

Thank God for teenagers. They seem to be lost in a self-absorbed haze for most of their lives, but on those very rare occasions, when they drop the attitude, get serious, and really commit themselves to helping a worthy cause - beautiful things can happen.

Anyway, this turned out to be a really inspiring weekend, and I was thankful to be part of it. {Moments like these remind me of "why I decided to be a volunteer" in the first place. Thanks for the inspiration, kids - you are all heroes in my book!!}

No comments: