As I sit down to write today, I’m remembering a time thirteen years ago.  My favorite oldest granddaughter, Ivy, was teething; and as teething babies often are, she was tired but unable to sleep.  It was a warm summer evening, and I pulled her from the mainstream of life and carried her to the wraparound porch that lies outside the front and side of our old house.  I sat in the porch rocker, looked into the eyes of the crying baby, and began to sing, “How are things in Glocca Mora…”  Why an obscure song from Finian’s Rainbow popped into my head and out of my mouth at that moment remains a mystery; but on that balmy summer night, our song was born.  There was something soothing about that old rocker that kept Ivy returning again and again well into her first year of school.  As a toddler, she would pull me toward the door and say, “Gocka Mora?” and we would settle into the old wooden rocker, painted the same gray-blue as the porch, and be whisked away to a place where the world did not intrude.  The years have flown, and it’s been a long time since our last trip to Glocca Mora.  The paint has faded on our rocking chair, but the memories remain fresh and sweet.

Last month Ivy and her friends came to ask whether they could borrow our rocking chair.  Their school is sponsoring a Rock-A-Thon — an event where the students will commit, as teams, to keep a chair rocking for twelve straight hours from 7PM to 7AM.  People have pledged their support in the form of monetary donations which will be sent to the American Cancer Society to fund research.  When the girls from the basketball team first decided to become rockers, I think they were motivated more my the allure of an all-nighter than by their desire to support a cause.  Collecting for the Cancer Society was an idea that they understood vaguely, and they knew it was a good thing; but the distant and abstract concept was not what drove their decision to participate.  Then everything changed.  As teams were forming for the event, a young teacher from their school was diagnosed with Acute Leukemia.  Suddenly, “cancer” had a name; and the students decided to divide their pledges between the Cancer Society and Mr. Bender’s family as a way of offering their support during his treatment.  Within a week, the sad news arrived:  Mr. Bender had died.  He never quite made it to his 35th birthday.  The Rock-A-Thon was postponed so that his students could attend his memorial services.  Tonight the event will finally happen, and I think the teams will bring a deeper sense of commitment and community to their pledge to keep the chairs rocking through the night.

Back to the chair.  “We have to decorate it,” the girls told me.  I looked at that faded old chair and asked them, “would you like to paint it?”  Their eyes lit up.  “Really?  Can we?”  And so a chair was reborn:

Every time I look at the result, I find myself smiling and just brimming with joy!

When Mark and I first decided to let the girls paint the chair, our thought was that when they were done we could restore it to a better version than the faded one and it would already be primed.  After seven girls ventured to the workshop with brushes and paints, we knew the only coat we would be adding was clear polyurethane to seal their work of art and preserve it.  The great news is that our new chair will match any decor.  I don’t think there’s a color missing from their palette!  What this represents to me is the unbridled passion of the fourteen-year-old.  It shows in their ability to express their colorful view of life with paint and bring a new perspective to something old and worn. (Did I mention that it glows in the dark?)  “Fear This!” their slogan proclaims — a statement of their own confidence in being able to succeed in the Rock-A-Thon and a statement that Cancer should fear the effort to find a cure.  I look at these amazing girls — students, athletes, friends, and now passionate workers for something they would like to change in the world — and I’m inspired by who they are and by the dreams of who they will become.

Sometimes it just takes a neon-spattered technicolor piece of furniture to remind us not to lose touch with our own passions.  Whatever you paint on your world today, be bold and colorful — and don’t forget to glow in the dark!