This afternoon, I was working in my office when the secretary asked if I could receive a student and some friends. I didn't know which of the family students with the first name she mentioned it could be, but I invited them in.
Turns out it was a former student, someone who had dropped out of the program in his first year but whom I see, greet, and keep up with frequently on campus. He and his friends came in wearing Phi Mu Alpha gear and carrying songbooks. What a delightful surprise -- a holiday serenade!
Then they opened their mouths, six men singing in four-part harmony, and the moment went from a sweet surprise to an aesthetic delight. They sang a Christmas carol so beautifully, then pulled me into the center of their circle to sing "To The Sweetheart of Phi Mu Alpha," a 1914 vintage that is full of collegiate tradition and turn of the century charm. Yes, just as in this version (with more singers) from the University of Miami, they went down on one knee in unison all around me. It was a sheer happiness to be surrounded by these beautiful singers, giving me their gift of talent and entertainment.
As they left to spread their cheer elsewhere on campus, I thought how courageous it is to decide to share freely what you do well with your community. And yet, once you make the decision, it's the easiest thing in the world to do. Having the idea and making the commitment is the tough part. I was inspired by the men of Phi Mu Alpha to look for opportunities to do just that, and invite my students and associates to do the same. Christmas is a time for gifts. The gift of music, art, craft, beauty of all kinds, coming to you unbidden -- that's a wonderful idea, and one that occurs to me far too rarely.