Sometimes it might be the better thing to not be among the chosen.
You would think that at my age, I might have a better grip on this rather fundamental concept; that I might have the basic priorities of life sorted out. But, due to a somewhat narrow minded perspective on life, and my decidedly clay-like feet, it seems I still have much learning to do. Over in the past couple of weeks, I have again learned something I should have known very well all along. And my daughter has taught me this lesson.
The (Seemingly) Important Thing - Becoming a Princess
In late September, Younger Daughter decided that she, like almost all of her Senior class at school, would try out for the Tournament of Roses Royal Court. It seems almost all (only about 120) of the girls try out for what is known locally as "The Royal Court" (note the capitalization) mostly for the fun of it. The Court consists of 7 young ladies from throughout the San Gabriel Valley, who are chosen to represent the Tournament of Roses each year, and to "officiate" over the Rose Parade on January 1st. The field of applicants starts out with roughly 1,000, and is narrowed down over several weeks and interviews to a final field of 34, prior to the big announcement of the Royal Court, comprised of seven young ladies.
As fate, seemingly random selection, and (biased Dad portion here) poise and warmth would have it, over the several weeks of Rose Court tryouts, Younger Daughter ended up in the final field of 34, who would stand up before the press and local dignitaries to hear the announcement of the Princesses of the Royal Court. The Chosen Ones. The girls in the final cut spent an afternoon at the famous Tournament House, being photographed and meeting with the press. My daughter, meeting the press. Has a strange sound to it. In local social circles this is considered something elite, classy, and certainly the ideal compliment to a young lady. Selection for the Royal Court means you have "made it" socially, that have been "chosen" by society; and that, in a way, you might even be, in some ways, royal.
And so, on a sunny Monday morning, parents, families, friends, and the press all gathered on the Tournament House lawn, to learn who would be selected for the Royal Court. Long story short, the finalist who lives in our house got to return home later that same morning as a commoner. She was happy for the journey, slightly disappointed, but fine with the life she leads. I do love that girl.
The Common Thing
At about the same time all of this social fomenting was going on, something else happened in the life of Younger Daughter. Something more mundane, not glamorous. Just a school assembly on an otherwise unremarkable Thursday morning, for a cause that doesn't get much press at all. Little limelight, and not something for social climbers. A common thing. To be more honest, this sort of assembly was about a subject many of us don't really do well with. This assembly involves those in our society who are often not noticed, those who will be certainly never be chosen for any Royal Court having anything to do with the Rose Parade.
This was an assembly about helping families with children who have Down Syndrome.
Club21 is a learning, support, and resource center for those with Down Syndrome. It was started by our dear friend, just four years ago, in the living room of her home. Our family is blessed beyond measure to be a part of this effort. For 14 years now, we have known Molly, our friends' daughter who has Down Syndrome. As a result of this friendship, Younger Daughter has, on her own, taken this cause to heart. For some time now, she has been planning to lead this assembly, as she felt her classmates, all 400+ of them at her school, needed to learn about families and kids with Downs, and how they might help.
And so, on that Thursday morning, the gymnasium at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy filled with noisy high school girls, and with families of children with Down Syndrome. An unlikely combination, two people groups who otherwise would not meet. Girls who have everything, and special needs kids who need, well, a lot. And they will continue to need a lot. For a lifetime. These are not kids you can afford to believe in for a just month, or a year.
One by one, families of Down Syndrome children got up and shared their stories. Stories of disappointment, confusion, frustration, challenges, sadness, and joy. Lots of joy. After just a few moments, that raucous gym quieted to the point where you could hear a pin drop. The assembly went on for almost an hour. I have never seen more focused attention from so many high school girls in my life. The girls were encouraged to take part in a charity walk that will benefit the families and kids of Club21. This will not make the social pages of the paper, but it will make a difference in terms none of us have the ability to measure.
And so, in the end, although Younger Daughter will always be a Princess in my eyes, its the commoner in her that I really love. And, often its better to be among the unchosen.