Can Beauty Rise from Challenges?

Seventeen years ago today, I was in New York City with my university's marching band. We had made the cross-country flight earlier in the week for the sole purpose of performing in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade the next day. I was also eighteen days into a regular heart rhythm, having had atrial fibrillation off and on for the past year.

I was in the colorguard, the section of the band whose instrument is a brightly colored flag. We had prepared and memorized a routine for the two and a half mile march that involved spinning, tossing, and otherwise moving our flags in synchronized time while we smiled continuously at the crowd.

But first, we had to complete a dress rehearsal of our culminating show to be performed when we reached the end of the parade in front of the Macy's Department Store. This piece would be televised across the nation, so the producers wanted to plan for camera angles and placement to best feature our music and formations.

The catch? They wanted us at Herald Square at 4 am. The day of the parade. Which began at 9 am.

We could hardly believe the schedule! How could this be right... when would we sleep? What if we were too tired to perform? It felt like we were being pushed to, or maybe even past, our limits.

However, when it came time to wake up, gather our uniforms, and load the buses, I jumped out of bed, alert with the excitement of the coming day. I drew my energy from the months of anticipation and the gratitude I felt for being included.

We had a great practice, despite the dark and freezing cold, and then we went to a hotel on Times Square to have breakfast and put the final touches on our appearance. Before long, we were getting on the buses again to go to Central Park, the beginning of the parade.

Group photo near Central Park before the parade began - I'm in the center with my arms tucked across my body

As we marched briskly down the wide road I worried briefly about my health and being able to keep pace, but my adrenaline and the cheering crowds quickly bolstered my confidence and strength. 

I can do this, I told myself. I am doing this.

Suddenly, my eyes were opened, and the beauty of the scene revealed itself: the golden yellow leaves of the season, the millions of people lining the street, my opportunity to represent Montana (a state from which parade bands are rarely chosen), and most poignantly, the resilience Americans were showing a mere two months after the attacks of September 11.

Upon reflection, it seems that most people have at least one event in their lives that they never thought would be achievable, but with dedication and perseverance it was accomplished. 

Marching in the Macy's Parade was my triumph. What was yours? If you haven't had it yet, what will it be? 

Can you find the beauty in those challenges? When you it's discovered, allow it to change you for the better.

Two doorways from this week that exemplify the alternative for the L in RL4B: Relentessly Listening for Beauty.

  • I was walking into my parents' house, and I heard the joyful sounds of children echoing on the playground of the neighboring school.

  • A couple of songs came on Pandora that reminded me of my grandmother (What a Wonderful World) and uncle (Landslide) who have both passed away. Each of the songs were her and his favorite, so as I listened, I heard the beauty and love of their spirits.


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