Even though it will be early 2012 by the time you read this column, I wrote it in the first week of December, 2002. And because of the season, I want to tell you a holiday story about the best Christmas gift I ever gave to someone.
It was in 2001, and I was trying to come up with a gift idea for a kid in his early teens who is very close to me. I wanted it to be special because the boy had been through a pretty tough few years. His family moved a lot, not around the block, but long distances, which forced him to make new friends, only to quickly lose them. He shuffled from one school to another, always as the new kid in class. If you’ve ever been the new kid in class, you know what I’m talking about.
Before his life turned upside-down, I knew him as a gregarious youngster who liked to be the center of attention, laughing, smiling, playing wildly with his friends. It only took a few hard years for him to become sullen and quiet. He spoke in clipped sentences, and then only when someone asked a question. He had trouble looking you in the eye. It was heartbreaking. He needed friends so badly. He needed something to believe in. This gift had to be special.
So I gave him an entry-level set of drums – nothing fancy, but they weren’t toys, either. I wish I could say that the drums completely turned his life around, but even if they haven’t, they seemed to nudge him in a better direction. He now practices religiously, and his drumming has come a long way in a very short time. He studies with a local teacher and began to attend a drum circle. He joined the school band, and earned an A. His life isn’t perfect, but he seems so much more engaged with it and the rest of the world.
He’s probably going to read this, too. I hope you like the pedal you got this year. Keep drumming.