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How Talent Show Stage Fright Turned Into a Boys Town Miracle

Boys Town Contributor

Boys Town employees are often asked about our kids and why we work here. One of our teachers wrote about the High School Talent Show held yesterday. It was so incredible we had to share with their permission. Do you think your school or your child’s school would have reacted the same way? Miracles happen here every day and we think this is one.

Before you judge the person who is a “lost cause” in your life, think about this:

The kids I work with are the “trouble” children of the world. They are the kids who didn’t go to school, didn’t listen to their parents, didn’t seem to care about anyone but themselves. They skipped classes, ran with gangs, and some even spent time behind bars. Most of our society called them a lost cause and gave up long ago.

Today all of these kids were at our annual high school talent show. These kids, who by many people’s estimate (maybe even yours) haven’t done much worth remembering, were doing a great job listening, laughing, and applauding for their peers on stage. It was all going so well.

And then came the glitch.

There was a girl up on stage singing an acapella number. She was doing fine, but the stage fright was getting to her. She made the smallest flub, and in that moment she got caught up in her own head. She froze up and ran off stage crying.

Take a moment to process the scene. A kid on stage just ran off in shame, and the room is full of the “lost cause underachievers” whom so many think nothing of. What do you think happened? Did they all laugh? Did they snicker? Did they make jokes with their peers?

Nope. They cheered. They cheered big.

In what was possibly the most heartwarming moment since coming on staff at the school, I watched as every student in the room cheered in encouragement for this girl. I heard people hollering positive things like “you’re doing great”. I watched as nearly every student in the room gave a standing ovation, and cheered for her with more passion than you’d hear in a crowd trying to convince an A-list performing artist to come back for an encore number.

And when she did finally come back on stage, an applause I didn’t think could get louder, did. When she finished the task she set out to do, the celebration was absolutely visceral. You could feel these young men and women were genuinely proud of this girl for coming back and finishing. I’m telling you, I sat there, and as I watched my construction class students joining in this outpouring of love, I was nearly in tears.

What people don’t often realize is that the people you think are the outcasts are sometimes the heroes. It’s not that these are bad kids; it’s that nobody ever showed them how to behave. It’s not that they don’t care about others; they just spent so much time trying to keep themselves alive that they never had time to learn to think of others. These kids have been pulled from the only life they knew, thrown in a facility where they have nearly no technology, limited communication with the outside world, and a whole lot more structure in a day than the first decade and a half of their lives, and they choose to do it. Sure, some have judges or probation officers who send them to us, but the bottom line is that there’s no barbed wire fence here. There are no walls or gates. These kids could leave this place any time if they really truly wanted it, and yet they stay. They stay, and they impress me every single day.

Maybe the message here is that we all need to quit assuming the worst in others. Stop assuming that shady kid in your neighborhood is just inherently bad. Set aside the assumptions that the person with different political or religious views from you hates everything you believe in. Set aside your belief that there are people who are just lost causes. Because today I sat in a room full of “lost causes” and watched them perform an act of compassion that the “good kids” probably couldn’t pull off. Many years ago my organization’s founder posited that there is no such thing as a bad child. On days like today, I understand exactly what he meant.