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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Right and Left (07/31/14)

TITLE: Step by Step
By Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom


Even thirty-some years later, when I think about my experience in marching band, I can feel the blood rush to my cheeks, and my shoulders slump in defeat. I had dreamed of being a member of the color guard ever since I first saw my sister twirl the flag and perform in the half-time shows.

For a small school, the band was quite good. I remember trying out at the end of my freshmen year. It devastated me when I found I wasn’t selected to be one of sixteen girls who made flag twirling an art form.

By several flukes, however, I received a call at the end of the summer. Apparently, there was an opening and I was next in line. I can still remember the conversation. “One of our members dropped out and we’d like you to join? Are you available to start practice next week?”

I jumped up and down, hopping as far as the phone’s tether would allow. I tried not to squeal as I answered, “Yes, that would be great.” As soon as I hung up, I ran through the house screaming. Oh, if only I knew then what I know now.

It seems there was a valid reason why I had never been selected to be part of the band. I’m tone-deaf, and nothing I did made it easy for me to hear the beat of the drum. The squad’s captain would walk next to me and scream, “Left, left, left, right, left!”

I soon learned the only way to keep in step was to watch the person in front of me. I thought I’d found the solution to my problem until the band teacher came up to me. “Keep your head up!”

I tried, oh, I really tried, but in a matter of minutes, I was out of step and Mr. H’s face turned bright red and he threw his clipboard at me. “Why can’t you stay in step and keep your head up?”

I bit my lip and took the constant humiliation. Many nights I left practice in tears. I couldn’t remember why I’d wanted this so much. Looking back, I can see that I wanted to emulate my big sister. In my eyes, she was perfect. I wanted to be special like her. It’s funny now, though. I realize my specialness lies in my uniqueness, not in being like all the others.

One night, I wanted to clock the band teacher in the head with my flagpole. We’d been going over one drill for hours. It was only eight beats long, and I was supposed to pivot, but I kept turning at the wrong spot in the song. To me, it sounded like every other note. Mr. H. got in my face, and screamed. Each time I missed (which was every time), he’d yell out to everyone. “Stop. we have to do it over because Shelly messed up again!”

I could feel my classmates glaring at me. This humiliation only made it worse. Finally, we worked out a secret code. The girl in front of me would wiggle her shoulder when it was time for me to turn. Somehow, I made it through and even received “Most Improved” at the end of my senior year.

To this day, I still have trouble keeping time with anything. If people are singing and clapping, I have to watch their hands or I’m off-beat in a manner of seconds.

Life is much like band practice. There are always people around us who can’t keep in step. I know people who don’t even know their right from their left, figuratively (and if I think hard, probably literally).

High school isn’t the only time where I felt out of sync with those around me. Even though it was a humiliating time in my life, today I realize that I’m so blessed to have a Heavenly Father who loves me no matter what. If he sees me stepping out with my left foot, when all around me, others are starting on the right foot, he lovingly guides me and whispers directions in my ear. “Right, left, right left.”

With his gentle guidance, I don’t feel like such a horrific failure. Teen years are hard no matter what. It certainly doesn’t do anyone any good to humiliate others. Instead, God calls me to demonstrate love and compassion, just as he does to me. Step by step, he shows me the way.

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This article has been read 319 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Dannie Hawley 08/08/14
Wow, this piece brings back a ton of memories! Well-crafted to do just that, I reckon. I could keep in step just fine, but when they made the sophomores get their band uniforms last and mine had to be hemmed up eight inches inside both legs and arms... wwell, I quit. No way I had the spunk you demonstrated to get out there and just do it anyway. My hat's off to you! Terrific job on this article. Thanks for sharing this tiny glimpse of your teen years with us. Most of us have been there, done that,and have a closet full of tee shirts.
C D Swanson 08/09/14
Great story and great job with this piece. Fine writing and entertaining.

God bless~
Carolyn Ancell08/10/14
Wonderful story of growing pains, and the spiritual learning there. Great job. One little red ink. At the beginning of paragraph five, I wonder of you might want to substitute the word "not" for "never"? She tried out at the end of her freshman year, was not chosen then, but got a call to join over that summmer. The word "never" seems to imply that she tried out many times.
Amy Michelle Wiley 08/11/14
Ahh, this brings back memories of my own tone-deafness. I remember my choir instructor lining us up and assigning each of us one note to sing, so he could point and play us, sort of like a piano. I had only one note to remember. Even the little kids could do it. But me? Yeah, not so much. He tried a few times but quickly gave up when it was clear I wasn't going to get it.

Anyway! As for your story, great job. I'm sure you spotted the typos already, and that's about the only red ink I saw. I like the devotional message at the end.
Judith Gayle Smith08/13/14
"To this day, I still have trouble keeping time with anything. If people are singing and clapping, I have to watch their hands or I’m off-beat in a manner of seconds."

Yup. Don't know when to clap my hands, stomp my feet, bob my head. I sing in a slow sweet pause, almost getting the beat, and my tremolo warbles jaggedly.

Terrific article Shann! You bring back some not so delightful memories, but you make us all feel we are not so alone . . .
Bea Edwards 08/13/14
I really enjoyed this peak into your past and the similarities to probably most of our teen experience.
Nice way to develop this topic.
Ann Grover08/13/14
I'm pretty sure you know all the red ink needed, so I won't mention those.

I liked this. It reminded me also of those who "hear a different drummer," and do things to differently, "according to the music which he hears." Not wrong, not bad, just different. Our God is a God of variety and uniqueness.
Ann Grover08/13/14
Go ahead, red ink my comment.
*rolls eyes*
Ann Grover08/13/14
Go ahead, red ink my comment.
*rolls eyes*
Jennifer Liang08/13/14
I liked this story of teenage angst and trying to follow your sister. The lesson learned here is that your talents are yours and hers are hers. Good illustration.

Now for a few of the typos.
The first sentence of first conversation, does it need to end in a ?

"and if I think hard, probably literally" does it need the ()?

Right, left, right, left. I think you missed a comma.

Hope that helps if you didn't notice them already! :)
Rachel Barrett 08/13/14
Oooh boy...you're not allowed to hit so close to the bone!!!

Just kidding. :) I grew up in a very musical family, so I never had trouble with pitch or beat, but the part about wanting to be like your older sister and not appreciating your own uniqueness...wow. Yeah. I was there.

Fabulous. Methinks it ought to be a winner.
Diane M. Bowman 08/13/14
If this isn't the best, then mine is pitiful!

Great story. I've never been exactly coordinated myself. It made me think of a game called 'rhythm.' I always ended up watching because I couldn't keep up.
C D Swanson 08/15/14
Shann, I usually don't look at "highest ratings" ---because I somehow always forget. But, I'm glad I looked this time around, you do it for so many of us in here...and most times I'm not even aware of my ratings!

So, having said that:

C O N G R A T U L A T I O NS for coming in 15th overall!!

Smiling and so happy for you dear friend.

God bless~