Ages: 16 – 18
Location: Nashville International Airport, Tennessee
Several things made me happy strolling through the Nashville, Tennessee airport. A woman waiting for a flight caught my attention because she was wearing fabulous shoes (multi-colored high top sneakers) on two prosthetic legs. She sat in her wheelchair and rewarded me with a huge grin when I complimented her footwear, and I admired her spirit and her way of letting it shine through the very thing that no doubt tests that spirit.
I also enjoyed the fact that I was serenaded by live music on my walk down the main concourse. Okay Nashville, having a live band performing at the airport (before 9:00 a.m., mind you!) definitely earns you the right to keep on bragging (as every t-shirt and bumper sticker sold throughout the airport proclaims) that you are, indeed, The Music City.
But what made me smile the most was the group of high school students I encountered while waiting in line at the food court. I could tell from just a few minutes of overhearing their banter and teasing that they were both good friends and good kids. I guessed they were on their way to some sort of model U.N. competition, seeing as they looked like a mini U.N. (another thing I liked about this collection of teens). I introduced myself (something my kids no doubt find simultaneously predictable and embarrassing) and asked them what their connection was and where they were headed.
It turns out they were on their way to a Speech and Debate competition in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They all go to high school in Florida (Brandon, 17, Lauren, 16, Cedrick, 17 and Parth, 18, attend Suncoast Community High School in Riviera Beach and Anna, 16, is a sophomore at William T. Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens.) They told me what was obvious, even from just casually observing them for a few minutes. They are really good friends. In fact, they view each other as family.
“Debate has not just been an important part of my high school experience,” Brandon said, “but a really important part of my life.” Cedrick agreed that his friends on the debate team are among his closest friends. Parth, the only senior, said simply, “their laughter brings me happiness.” Lauren noted that they are all in different grades and classes and would not have met but for debate. Anna added that even though she goes to a different school, traveling with the four others who aren’t even on her team is comfortable and easy because they have debate in common. “We are similar enough that we all get along,” she said.I wished them luck in their competition, but they don’t need to head back to Florida with a trophy to be winners. They already are, and I suspect they know that. Here’s to finding things you love to do and letting that forge friendships and communities. Here’s to finding commonality among differences. And here’s to patiently answering questions and posing for a photo when a lady says, “So I’ve got this blog…”