We are not morning people. No one enjoys getting out of bed – not even the dogs. Because of that, getting everyone dressed and in the car is filled with emotion.
Stress. Anger. Anxiety. Frustration.
In the middle of that mess, my kids have adopted a morning tradition. Once the car is rolling, they want to hear music. Not just any music. They want to hear “Mighty to Save” by Hillsong. They want it turned up loud. And they want to sing at the top of their lungs, even though neither of them can carry a tune in a bucket. And they want to pretend to be part of the band. One plays the keyboard, the other an air guitar, and me? Drums, of course! I have to keep my hands on the wheel, after all. Plus by that time I am usually ready to beat on something. As we sing and “play”, something amazing happens.
Stress disappears. Fighting resolves. Anger dissipates.
She was 14, and she really couldn’t have cared less who I was. She was simply here because her case worker had dragged her in to get a physical. She gave cursory answers to most of my questions. She had been in 10 placements over the past year – she was difficult to care for, she guessed. She could make straight A’s when she managed to stay in school long enough to get a report card. Yes she smoked – 2 packs a day. Even though she had asthma. Yes she drank alcohol, any time she could get her hands on it. Yes she slept with boys, mostly when she was lonely. But then I asked something that struck a nerve. “What do you enjoy?” Her face fell. “I don’t enjoy anything.” I didn’t believe her. “Come on”, I said, “there must be one thing that you enjoy doing. Even if you don’t get to do it very often. What is it? Reading? Writing stories? Playing ball? Watching movies?”. “Music”, she said. “Music calms me down, helps me to not get into fights, and not be depressed. I have had CD’s and even had a boom box before, but I have moved around a lot, and have lost it all.”
The medical treatment she needed was fairly straightforward. Take your asthma medicine. Stop smoking, drinking, and sleeping around. Go to school. But the question wasn’t WHAT did she need to do to be healthy. The question was HOW to be motivated to do it. In the face of overwhelming stress. When you have been abandoned and are hopeless. When you have very little control. The answer? Music.
We made a deal – come back in a month in better shape. You can define it. If you are better, I will get you your music. Two months went by, and I wondered if she had moved again. Then, she came. Stopped smoking. Taking her asthma meds. Hadn’t slept with anyone new this month (I counted that as an improvement). Only 1 new placement in 2 months. In school, making A’s and B’s. Her case worker smiled and agreed. And I went to the store to get her some music.
When you turn on your radio, or plug in to your iPod, pause and be thankful that you are alive, that you are safe, that you have food in the fridge and relationships that are meaningful. Let music be a gentle reminder that not everyone does.