Singer, songwriter and author Andrew Peterson stopped by Dallas last week to inspire kids and adults alike. I don’t know Andrew, but if I did and if he and his family lived in Dallas, I think we’d be friends. I also thought, oh so many years ago while sitting next to my sister in the Wichita Falls Sikes Center Mall movie theater watching Top Gun, that one day I’d meet Tom Cruise.
But I did get to meet Andrew. I group-ied in line with his fans (middle school avid readers of The Wingfeather Saga – a series of 4 fantasy thrillers) so I could tell him thank you. Thanks for being regular and modeling imperfect in a world obsessed with performance among other pressures.
Before being bombarded by fans, Andrew shared with the 4th-8th graders plus a splattering of parents (most of whom love his music) at our school. He started the presentation with a couple of songs, between which he shared a little about his own feelings at their age. “I wasn’t an athlete or a part of the cool crowd or a great student. I was a nerd – that skateboarded – kind of the leader of the nerd crowd, which put me in a strange in-between place.” And he shared how he sometimes felt alone and left out and not enough. “Have you ever felt that way?” He asked the crowd.
We all nodded.
Then he set up his next song, Loose Change, about a penny who, if it could talk, probably feels a little bit like a Middle Schooler (actually each of us since we’re all a flesh wound away from Jr High insecurities) sometimes overlooked, rarely noticed, seemingly easily discarded. Then he strummed his guitar and began to sing. Midway through the first line – he laughed and shared that it had been a while since he had played the song and that he had forgotten the words. But then he remembered, started from the beginning and forgot again.
It was beautiful. He didn’t crater. He leaned into what could have been embarrassing, making it regular because messing up is regular – even when it is literally in front of everyone. Then he grabbed his phone “to google the lyrics” – so real and even more regular. It even took him a couple tries to land on the right site.
Not only that, he needed help to be able to sing, play and see the words at the same time. Hands shot up when he asked. And from the audience a “girl with the big green bow” stood next to him, holding his phone as he sang.
The very real moment couldn’t have played better if it had been scripted – offering inspiration and lessons to everyone looking on:
- we don’t have to be perfect
- mistakes happen – even to professionals
- sometimes we need help – help that is available, we just have to ask
- people are nice and a lot less judgmental of us than we are of ourselves
- we are not alone
I hope we can appreciate the dry sense of humor, creativity and deep truth woven through the lyrics. May they put some wind in your sails the same way they did and continue to do with the crowd who saw them lived out in a very regular and imperfect school assembly.
…But I heard about a penny found, lying underneath the couch
By a woman who was kneeling down, looking for some change
Then the woman danced around and called her friends all over town
Told them what was lost is found, it’s another penny saved
And so I find that all this time beneath the surface I could shine
Like all the gold a king and queen could measure
You see even a penny is a treasure
Thanks for walking the road with me.