Tell Kids They Can Do Anything
I believe that the richest experiences in life are those that you didn’t naturally choose but happen anyway.
My wife and I and our three kids have always been concert goers. We believe that music brings the best out in people and that the more you hear, the more you grow. One summer’s evening we had the pleasure of seeing the Dave Matthews Band with our kids. Our youngest son, Gabe, age six, asked us to please take him to meet the band. Looking around at the crowd in the arena, knowing that this band, like all bands, would be inaccessible to us, we began to gently explain why it wouldn’t work. But my wife stopped herself and said, “why not? I’ll bet if we really try we can make it work.” Thus started a year long odyssey to see if it was indeed possible.
First of all, we know no one in the music industry. We also live in a small town in Northern California where the likelihood of contact with famous musicians is pretty slim. But onward she went with this mission, asking anyone who had a spare moment if they knew anyone with a connection to the band. For months, she asked friends, acquaintances, work associates, and even strangers in idle conversations if they knew anyone. No, no, always no.
Then, one day, when a local band was playing in our town square, my wife and son asked the drummer if he knew anyone associated with the band. “Yes,” he said, “that guy right there works for the Dave Matthews Band,” pointing to someone standing nearby. My wife and son immediately approached him, being careful not to come on too strong for fear of seeming like a creepy fan. She told him of Gabe’s wish and asked if there was any way to make it happen. Gustav, soon to become a family friend, said he would do what he could, and took our address and phone number. My wife felt like this might really happen.
That night, I was all for telling Gabe that it still was a long shot and probably wouldn’t become reality, and she told me no, we needed to continue to give Gabe the possibility of success. Of course, she was right, and we entered a long period of waiting to see what would come of it.
After a month of hearing nothing, she kept asking people and got no further. Then, one Sunday afternoon, she happened to run into Gustav in the local market. He immediately pulled out his wallet to show her our contact information still there and said he had not been back to Virginia, where the band lived, since he saw her last. He said he was going soon and would be in touch soon. Then began another waiting period where Gabe thought each phone call was for him and every ring of the door bell would show Dave Matthews himself standing there, guitar in hand.
Then one day, several months later, one week before the band was coming to another arena show in the San Francisco area, there was a knock on the door. There stood Gustav with all kinds of goodies for Gabe; a signed drum head, signed drum sticks from Carter Beauford, the bands’ astonishingly talented rhythm man, and videos on drumming, also signed. Gabe was ecstatic, and then Gustav dropped the bomb: go to the August 1 concert, and Gabe would meet the band.
Of course we were all beside ourselves, but the adventure did not end there. We got to the show very early and headed for the sound board, where Gustav had told us he would be. We asked one of the sound engineers, who told us that Gustav had quit the day before. We were crestfallen. Then another engineer piped up that he did happen to be there that day, though, and called him on his cell phone. Within minutes, Gustav came and found us, and we all sat nervously as he simply sat and chatted and said nothing about meeting the band. After 10 minutes of mounting stress and taxed cordiality, Gustav’s cell phone rang and he stood up. “Come on Gabe,” he said, “let’s go meet the band.”
Gabe, being seven, was in the air and laughing, as were we. Gustav took him by the hand and we watched him walk down to the stage and then disappear behind the curtains. It was only then that my wife and I realized that we had given our seven year old to a total stranger in an arena with 20,000 fans and no way to contact Gustav. For the next 45 minutes we alternated between glee that this was actually happening and fear that we had made the stupidest mistake a parent could make. We held our breath.
Then they appeared. Gabe was his normal happy seven year old self, but with a strong odor of cologne. He had been handed over to the band on their tour bus by Gustav and the band members spent the 45 minutes with Gabe on their laps, showing them the bus, giving him musical tips, and putting on the bead necklaces that Gabe had made them with his mother before we came. Gustav politely left us with a meeting he needed to attend, and Gabe was suddenly tired and didn’t want to talk about it. Everyone around us was so thrilled with his story that they all wanted to quiz the little guy, and he just asked if he could have a soda. A few minutes later, the lights went down and the band came on, and you could see clearly, on the giant video screen, that Carter Beauford was wearing Gabe’s beads.
Now Gabe is a teenager and an avid drummer. He has told us again and again that we should never say things can’t happen. Just look at what happened to him. I believe that this was the greatest gift to us as a family and to Gabe as he builds his own future. Anything can happen, and just might.
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