Charlie and the Talent Show
Back in April, I went to my son’s school for their annual talent show. Of the 500 students from grades five and six, only 20 signed up to perform. As the school principal said at the time, I’m sure there are way more than 20 talented students in the school.
My son, Jack, was one of those 20 students, which is why I attended the show in the first place. Though I definitely give the kids kudos for performing, the overall energy of the event was mediocre at best. At least at the beginning.
There were 12 acts in total. The two MC’s did their best to keep the energy up, and the kids in the audience gave their full attention, but the atmosphere was still a bit flat.
Once we reached act number 10, one of the MC’s announced, “our next performer’s talent is reciting the names of the 44 American presidents. Please welcome… Charlie Stoops!”
The students in the crowd went absolutely WILD! I was stunned, along with the other parents in the stands. After sitting there fairly quietly for 40 minutes, EVERY student was hooting and hollering.
All eyes were on Charlie, with his light blond hair, red rosy cheeks, timid smile and his shuffled gait. He walked over to the middle of the stage, and tapped on the top of the microphone in multiple sets of three. After each set of taps, he paused and looked around at the audience. They laughed as if laughing with him, but he just smiled. If you knew Charlie, you’d know he wasn’t trying to be funny.
He was just being himself.
Charlie is on the Autism spectrum. Social interactions have never been easy for him, and I’ve seen his mom at the school and other events, tirelessly helping him navigate the social and sensory world around him with absolute patience, love and persistence.
Charlie looked at the stool on the stage and assessed the situation. Most would have probably stepped in front of the stool, and facing the audience, lifted themselves up to reach the seat. But not Charlie. He turned his back to us, and with both hands on the seat and the mic in one hand, climbed onto the stool with his backside facing us.
I expected the kids to laugh at him, but they didn’t. They just waited. And then he spoke.
“Oh yeah, I’m supposed to tell you something about the presidents. Let’s see…”
He listed the names of all the American presidents, in order, and then said, “well, that was 44 names, so I guess that’s it.”
The kids in the audience ERUPTED with applause! Every single one of them. They gave him a standing ovation, and some of the boys fist-pumped the air. Charlie’s mom and grandma cried.
What was it about this child who struggles in social situations that enabled him to get up onstage in front of over 500 people and perform fearlessly? Perhaps it was that he possessed the confidence to just be himself, and that this was met with respect, support and acceptance from his peers.
So many of us try desperately to look or act a certain way in order to fit in. But here was Charlie, just being Charlie. Life can be truly awesome when we give the world our authentic selves.
What would it take for you to be your authentic self?
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