The following is a blog written by MaryBeth Thomas

I began studying music with great intensity late in middle school and throughout my high school years, but my passion, more of an obsession rather, began much earlier. In fact I can’t remember a time when my heart hasn’t been plucking its strings in time with the tune of a fiddle or banjo.
I do however, remember the sensations procured by song in my life: I remember the rides to every basketball or tee-ball practice with my father. Sometimes we would make a few stops along the way, to the dump (our country term for garbage waste facility), or to the local Quickmart or Dollar store (commonly called: Dollar General), for some gum and a Gatorade. Never did a time pass that I didn’t holler to my daddy in the front seat and say, “KENNY CHESNEY”. “Play that song!” I never remembered the title, but I knew the track number by heart and would always skip right along to 3. My father would always laugh and glance away from the road to welcome me with a big grin.
I remember that after some time, my dad began singing the song and so did I. At the time, I always complained that he couldn’t sing the melody correctly, and he doesn’t know this, but I appreciated every note, every word. Little did I know, that I would appreciate them more now than I did then.

The song, I now know, was entitled “When the Sun goes Down.” Often, my father and I would talk about the lyrics, me, being naïve to the concepts of adult parties, didn’t understand how the lyrics could make sense. Specifically, “Everything get’s hotter when the sun goes down…” Now, my friend, scientifically, you and I both are well aware that not everything becomes physically hotter when the sun sets, quite the opposite rather. My father tried to convince me that this was not something I should think too long about, and only now do I realize that with “a cold drink chilling” and “sun tanned toes, sitting in the sand” for those 21 and over like Kenny, this is a possible concept of warmth and it’s not necessarily tangible, but sensational all the same.

Although, as I mull the thought over,  I suppose this goes for everyone of any age. Though, for Kenny, in his song, things were more sensational relaxing on a beach, for others such comfort is found with a fresh cup of coffee and an open book or a long hike through the wilderness and so forth. For some, this concept of “sensation” of “a feeling” changes, and evolves with the individual as they matriculate and mature.

For me, I couldn’t always find the pleasure I took from the characters in music, the pleasure the children here at Good Hope feel. You see, I believe life can be filled with mysterious trials whose purpose can be incomprehensible yet equivocal.

Likely you, as I, have encountered the dreadful demons of the night. The echoes of regret. The nagging beast that pounces on your hopes and wraps itself in the fibers of the soul, the ghost that plays doubledutch with the heartstrings suspended in your chest cavity. The creeping crustation that feeds on the light of darkness, claiming you aren’t good enough. Or perhaps, you have been fortunate enough to not have these Incorporated Monsters assigned to your door. However, for me, solutions haven’t always been that simple. Sully wasn’t the monster in my closet, what I had wasn’t living at all. I, for myself, constructed a mirror and the problem with all mirrors is that you only see a reflection of the reality you know. Unfortunately, as a child none of this was clear to me. I was my greatest critic, my own evil. My only resolve came in the suspense of a melody in the space between my ears. Music flushed out all the thoughts that crept into my cranium and replaced them with peaceful, powerful, praise. Music provided answers to all of my questions. Song was my solace in all situations. Yet, even with this sensation I craved somthing more. With the support of great individuals all over, a family  that maps an entire county and you reading this, I reached for something else, beyond my greatest boundaries.

So, now, here we are, in Tanzania.  My Rosewood girl named Uke and you with your eyes tracing the path of my mind. Karibu na asante sana (welcome and thank you). Believe it or not, you, your comments, your laughter, are all notes adding to my teaching staff, you are a pivotal part of my lesson, my song.  I must say, I am told I am the one teaching, yet the students have taught me more than I could ever possibly share.

I have learned how to laugh,  and laugh so hard it hurts. To sing, and sing so loud that the sound echoes off the walls of the classroom, so loud that the world outside becomes my music room; with sound pads laid in the base of the clouds. I have learned how to write every word in my mind to the tune of my heart with no concern of the relevance to structure  or grammar.

But most importantly that the reflection of myself is now the one starring back at me. I have found the happiness, the joy, the sensation I always felt from Kenny. I am living in a musical.

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Every day my students and I play, sing and dance to tunes in English and Kiswahili. We leap so high it’s as if we could pluck the stars from the sky. We pick strings as if we are seeking out a delicate four-leaf clover. My children string and sing with their fingers along the Uke, guitars and piano as an army of great Angels battling with the songs of Hallelujah and Happy Birthday.

My children are my heroes, they have taught me more than I could ever have imagined. I tell people all too often what I think to be the plans I have for myself, yet, the future I live in now is truly a present to live in and is much grander than what I had ever pictured.

All in all I guess it is safe to say that I will never know the true worth of a choice in a moment until the consequences are starring back at me.

All too often I told people growing up that I loathed the thought of becoming a teacher but always appreciated and admired those who could, but here I am. Will this be where I venture tomorrow, well that’s a mystery isn’t it? For now, I will live by the sensations I sought after in music. I will spend “all day long just takin it easy.” (figuratively) Residing in the comfort I know. I will look to the spotlights placed in the eyes of each of my students that look to me. I will honor their gaze with harmonies and melodies. I will share with them my story and with each lesson, my song will change in tempo to their stories. With each East African drumbeat that calls, the heartbeat that’s in me will ready its strings in suspense of their great symphony.

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