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Do you have the Guts to observe?

by | Oct 22, 2020 | Guts, observe, Van Halen

It was another Lock-In for our Church Youth Group.  A time tested recipe for lack of sleep, lots of hormones, and hopefully some memories that will last.  This particular one I arrived on fumes to start with – a long hard week of work, and then the drive down to Crozet from DC, to arrive at 8 pm for 50 kids from 12 to 18… and I really questioned what was I thinking?  I would not be at my best, probably a short temper, and hadn’t really had a chance to prepare enough material… all those negative thoughts were racing around my head.  And then… of course, one of the kids said “Hey Mr. House – can we play at Midnight?”… the kids in the band that had adopted me as their mascot…. even letting me play with them…

… I have worked with youth most of my adult life, and people have asked me “how do you do it… particularly Middle School?” As I have gotten older I think I know why.  There are 6 basic personality types, and the one that I think fits me is The Child – basically fun-loving and easy-going, and always thinking about the future.  I faked being an adult/parent enough to get through it, even mastering it to climb the ladder – realizing most of the senior people were mostly…. making it up…. And, the first you have to be with kids is …real.  Any airs, they smell immediately.  I have recruited a number of youth workers through the years, most of whom are shocked – wait, what do I have?  You… are real.  Raw, able to show that you don’t have it all baked, all thought through… and with some experiences that probably have a perspective that the kids would benefit from… and the Guts to show up without airs or the fake smile… 

… we have all been forced to confront the continuing reality of racism across the US, and I am not going to bend this into politics – other than to say that forced busing probably had a lot to do with Van Halen.  Having the Guts to force kids to move into different schools meant David Lee Roth was bused from the South Side of LA to Muir High School as a sophomore. He already had an affinity to black culture but as his friend George Perez said “At Muir, you had militant Blacks, who had Afros and Angela Davis posters in their lockers.  You had long-haired white hippies and Mexicans as well”… Imagine heading into that as short, rich, Jewish, Doctor’s kid from Massachuttes originally… that took Guts… 

… and he had got very good at navigating all of the different racial and ethnic terrain.  He “got very good at bridging the gaps … and getting along with everyone… He was basically a white dude who wanted to be Black. He had soul.”  It was that ability that helped him navigate his way into the Van Halen universe, watching them play at parties, and getting into the band.  He also knew how to blend together his intense desire to succeed with the immigrant mantra of “desperate people seeking desperate fortune… with a smile” When they finally got into the studio, that blend was perfect, and the first record was recorded in 3 weeks and went to number 19.  And interestingly, they also toured with Black Sabbath (like Boston) that by the end of the tour, Van Halen was the headliner… Roth in particularly liked opening and then turning to them saying “… your next…” – right after they tore the place down with their playing… 

We had a great time that evening, and the band was tight as ever.  They had played together since the 6th grade, and now could easily migrate from funk to pop, Dave Matthews of course.. and even could channel Herbie Hancock.  They were extremely talented… and all from “good homes” that meant this was likely a hobby at best… and they all went their own directions, and will be leaders in their own spaces for sure, whether it is music or not.  Van Halen with David was on the launching pad, and this cut shows you the raw power, energy, and fun that they were able to create together.  As you think about your path now, what do you have the Guts to observe you need to change? Who needs your steadying hand on their path?  Who can you give to that will pay back even more?  Yes – You. And who will help you make those changes… For me, it was being able to be real again… with these kids… who taught me to …  Dance The Night Away!!!

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