For Good

I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason

Bringing something we must learn

And we are led

To those who help us most to grow

If we let them

And we help them in return

Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true

But I know I’m who I am today

Because I knew you…    – Glinda & Elphaba from Wicked

I’ve been struggling this past week or so. I have found myself melancholy. Sad. A little bit kicked to the stomach. And it doesn’t really make sense because the reason for it is odd.

It’s not because of anything anyone’s done to me or any personal disappointments or anything that really, actually affects me directly. See, there are these kids I’ve come to know over the past school year. Not really well, but well enough to feel as if I know them. And care about them. I enjoy watching them do the things they excel at – like singing, dancing, acting. I enjoy watching them interact with one another. I enjoy seeing them support one another, encourage one another, work together and collaborate. I find myself amazed by their talents & their accomplishments.

I’ve come to know them simply by hanging around. Doing the photography this year has provided me an opportunity not only to do something for them, but also to have the honor of interacting with them.

Today, I got our local newspaper and read an article written by a young lady who recently learned about the passing of one of her high school teachers. I read through this article and got to the end where she talked about how this teacher would play the song “For Good” from the musical Wicked at the end of the year and I found myself just sobbing. I realized it – that’s how I feel about these kids.

No, I’m not terribly close to any of them. No, they don’t consider me a friend, really, or anything like that. But I realized that, through my interaction with them, I had been changed.

See, I came into their lives for a concrete reason – to take pictures of their activities for posterity. But they gave me so much in return.

They showed me that not all young people are self-absorbed and rude. They showed kindness, generosity, thankfulness not only to me, but to one another (for the most part).

They showed me that it’s about WHO you are. There are a lot of talented kids out there, but what set them apart was who they were inside.

Arlinda showed me tenacity and unrecognized beauty. This young lady is smart beyond belief – so goal-oriented and accomplished, so giving of her time and talents, so inclusive and so incredibly smart. All I can see when I look at her is the huge promise her future holds. She’s one of those young women who just exude strength, possibility, certainty and confidence. She presents herself as if nothing will stand in her way. At the Variety Cabaret, this incredible lady performed an original poem she wrote for her mother that RUINED me. No, literally. I was sobbing like a huge, monstrous sobbing thing at the Great Festival of Sobbing and Weeping. It was called “I Am a Knight” and you can read it here:  But, even with all her accomplishments, strength, confidence and amazingness, she didn’t even know was how absolutely, stunningly beautiful she is. And she’s the best kind of beautiful – not typically with blonde hair and big eyes and the “perfect” figure. She’s got huge eyes that are on FIRE, a stunning nose with the most adorable freckle, enviable bone structure and a perfect figure. :hee: I think some of the best pictures I took this year were of her. Because everything she is comes out on her face and it is GORGEOUS.

Astoncia showed me strength, determination and fire. She faced a bunch of struggles at the end of her senior year – many that would have flattened other girls her age. But she rose above. I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but she did it anyway. She didn’t let disappointment break her down. She didn’t let heartbreak ruin love for her. She didn’t let anyone steal her thunder as she led the musical to an unexpected level. She’s gorgeous, of course (and I’m sure she’s heard it enough from me!), but more importantly than her outward beauty is her sweet, sweet heart. She could easily be a diva who finds others beneath her, but instead she envelopes those younger than her with love and acceptance. She is an example and inspiration to me.

Daniel has a talent that is unmatched. Anyone who comes in contact with him can’t deny it. His voice is just dumbfounding for someone his age. Heck, for someone MY age. Again, here’s someone who could be a total tool – just bopping around throwing the mic down and walking away because he’s just. that. talented. But he doesn’t. He isn’t. He’s humble. He’s kind. He does the work (which he easily wouldn’t have to do at this point – he could totally coast). He works SO hard. He’s been in all the choirs, so many plays and still has amazing grades. When you watch him for any length of time, you can’t do anything but go, “Woah. Just… Woah.” He has reminded me of the importance of humility.

Anna. I don’t know her terribly well, but here’s what I do know. She’s another wonderfully talented musician with perfect pitch who sings Alto 2, which is THANKLESS. There are no big solos, no show-stopping numbers, no “look at me” moments with Alto 2. Heck, most people don’t even notice the part. She’s so good and hardly had any opportunity to show it. But she never came off as annoyed or attitudinal about it (which I always did, even while singing Soprano 1). She did the work. She was dependable, consistent, and a great leader. When she did have a solo, she nailed it. When she didn’t have a solo, she sang her part strongly, providing a foundation for whomever did. And, most importantly, Maggie thinks she’s wonderful. Which is more than enough recommendation for me.

Hannah. Again, didn’t know her really well, but this girl is an inspiration. So talented – not only vocally, but also in terms of selling a song. She was one of 2 seniors in a group of ladies that did Cell Block Tango for the Variety Cabaret and she was just unstoppable. I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. I mean, all the girls were tremendous and selling this song like their lives depended on it, but I honestly thought she might cut me. That was the first time I really noticed her. I found myself continuing to notice her as the year went on. Then, in March, she decided to support St. Baldrick’s by shaving her head. A girl who decides to make that sacrifice is HUGE. So much female importance is placed on our hair that to shave it all off is a big, big deal. When I heard, I ran to her pledge page and supported her. Because someone who can make that decision is a strong, brave woman – not a girl. I saw the pictures from the event, watched her anticipation and fear and cried when I saw the tears on her face. But what’s the most amazing? After she did it, she was MORE beautiful. Getting rid of her hair brought 50 tons of attention to her gorgeous, expressive, kind eyes and I fell in love with her a little bit.

This is just a handful of them. But these are the ones who really jumped out at me. And, of course, these are just the seniors.

I know it’s probably silly. I know I shouldn’t be affected so much. I know I shouldn’t be so sad that I may never see these kids again. Sorry. I can’t help it. Y’know, I’m so much like my mom with this. I can’t keep my heart closed and just coldly do my job. And I’m so, so glad I can’t. Because I can’t imagine NOT receiving the gifts these kids gave me. And all I can do is sing.

It well may be

That we will never meet again

In this lifetime

So let me say before we part

So much of me

Is made from what I learned from you

You’ll be with me

Like a handprint on my heart

And now whatever way our stories end

I know you have re-written mine

Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?

But because I knew you

Because I knew you

I have been changed for good.   – Glinda & Elphaba from Wicked