Learn. Together. Kodiak.
Too often these days we hear people say, “what’s in it for me?” It seems some people feel they need to be compensated or recognized for even the slightest bit of effort. Which is why, I guess, it is always so refreshing to see or hear about someone doing something for a friend or neighbor with no expectation of a reward. It is particularly heartwarming to me when the person doing the nice gesture is a kid. As a former kid myself, I’m well aware of the pervasive stereotype of the lazy and selfish teen. But there are kids right here in our own community who defy this label and have gone out of their way to assist those around them.
Recently I heard about several musically inclined students who decided to entertain their elderly neighbor who is housebound during the coronavirus outbreak. The neighbor is feisty centenarian, Margaret Hall, a Kodiak icon well known for her own willingness to help those in need. The impromptu recital was certainly an opportunity for the kids to practice their instruments, but the goal was to brighten Margaret’s day and let her know her neighbors were thinking about her while she was stuck at home. Margaret was thrilled with the performance and suggested the kids play for some of her friends. One of those friends, Midge Dillon took them up on the offer. Midge is another longtime Kodiak resident and also happens to be my wife’s grandmother. When I found out these students were taking their show on the road to Midge’s house, I jumped at the chance to see them in action.
When I arrived, the show was already underway. 13 year-old Paxson Williams was playing an accordion solo from the tailgate of a pickup truck while his audience of one stood beaming from the railing of her front porch. Nearby were Paxson’s two younger brothers, Huxley and Stokely as well as 14-year old Max Robinson. Max was next “onstage,” playing several songs for Midge on the electric organ that was in back of the truck and plugged into her house with a long yellow extension cord. Supervising the show and also adding some musical accompaniment, were Genevieve Cook on flute and Kristine King on guitar. Genevieve works at Providence Hospital and is also known as Mom to the Williams boys. Kristine is Max’s mom and teaches art at Kodiak Middle School. By the time the performance was over, the boys had played for a solid 30-40 minutes and received a well-deserved round of applause from Midge.
As they packed up the truck, I asked the kids what it meant to them to be able to do this for Midge and Margaret. Max, an 8th grader at KMS who also plays tenor sax and guitar, told me he likes the feeling he gets from doing something nice for others. He says it makes him happy to do something good for the community. Paxson likes the opportunity to help his neighbors. He also gives a hand to Margaret by cleaning her flower beds and pulling dandelions for her. Max and Paxson both wanted to give a shout out to their band teacher, Dale Lhotka as well as orchestra teacher, Walter Muelling. Paxson is happy to mention that he has learned to play the accordion from Mr. Muelling over the internet since the school shutdown. In addition to the accordion and piano, Paxson also plays the alto sax and upright bass.
As for the younger boys, Huxley, who is a 3rd grader in Elena Leinberger’s class at Main Elementary, said these front porch productions are an opportunity to bring joy to people during an uncertain time. He likes to be able to get people’s energy up and give them something to look forward to during isolation. His future plans include being either a scientist or a chef or maybe even a garbage truck driver. But whatever he does, he says he will somehow work music into his career. His older brother, Stokely is a 5th grader at Main. Stokely is a character and did most of the talking. He asked me to refer to him as “the Boss.” He loves to do these mini concerts because it’s a way to help make people happy while also honing his musical skills in front of a live audience. Not surprisingly, he loves to be onstage. He loves to be silly and make people laugh. The Boss wanted to make sure proper credit went out to Main Elementary’s music teacher, Tyler Barnes as well as his piano teacher, Ms. Jensen.
When everyone had left, I chatted for a few minutes with grandma Midge. She was still smiling about the show she just watched and was very impressed with the skill level of all the kids. But she was even more impressed with their maturity and their willingness to take time out of their day to do something nice for someone they didn’t even know. “It was great. I had such a good time. Their parents should be very proud of those boys.”
I couldn’t agree more.
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