I received a text from my friend Alex Boye the other night, asking if I’d be interested in singing a song with him at his Christmas concert this year.
“Yes!!! I would love to!” I responded.
When I arrived the night of concert, I saw the auditorium at Olympus High School where the concert was being held quickly filling up with people who were excited to see Boye perform. I found a seat on the very end of the front row so I could be close to the stairs when it was time for me to join him onstage.
“Hi!” I whispered to a young boy who was sitting next to me. “What’s your name?”
He looked at his dad, then back at me.
“Tell her,” his dad encouraged.
“Will,” he said and then looked away again.
“How old are you?” I asked, not normally this talkative. Usually I like to stay in my own little world until after my performance so I can remain “in the zone.” But for some reason, I was drawn to this sweet boy who I could tell was very special.
“Ten,” he said, eyes still flickering fast between his dad and me, probably looking for reassurance that talking to a strange woman was OK. He began to relax a little and told me what school he went to and how big of an Alex Boye fan he was.
“So are you excited to be here tonight then?” I asked Will with a smile, already knowing the answer.
He nodded emphatically, grinning wide. “Yes!”
“Well guess what?” I said. “I was in a music video with Alex.” Will stared at me in wonder. His dad asked what the video was called and pulled up mine and Alex’s “Have I Done Any Good?” on YouTube and pointed to my name.
“Cameron. Is that you?”
“Carmen,” I corrected, smiling again. “And yep, that’s me!”
Will and his dad watched our music video, huddled together on the theater seats, sharing whispers back and forth.
“That’s her,” Will’s dad said with a laugh as he kept glancing between the “video” Carmen and the real me.
“Can I tell you a secret?” I leaned in. “I am going to be singing with Alex tonight! But it’s a surprise, so don’t tell anyone.”
He opened his eyes wide in disbelief.
The show started and after a few songs, Alex pulled me up onstage to sing “Do It Anyway,” a duet we recorded in honor of the victims of the tragedy in Las Vegas this September.
“Alex, if you don’t mind,” I said pointing into the audience, “I’d like to dedicate this song to Will. He is a huge fan of yours and wants to be a conductor someday. Will, we believe you can do anything you put your heart and mind to.”
The audience cheered. Will beamed.
It was one of those moments I’ll never forget: the look on his face, the crowd’s supportive applause, the feeling as we sang. There are times when I’m onstage that are almost transcendent. It’s a rush of so many emotions all at once that take my breath away and make me so very grateful for what I get to do: share my heart through song.
After I sat back in my chair, Will leaned in and said, “Thank you!” My heart felt close to bursting.
Toward the end of the night, Boye called the Olympus High School choir to join him onstage. “And I would also like to invite my friend Will to come up here one last time,” he said, and Will sitting next to me stood to go up.
“Oh, buddy,” his dad said, grabbing his arm, “I think he means the other Will.” My heart sunk as I watched another, older Will, who played the drums for Alex earlier in the concert, stand and walk up the stairs. My seat neighbor Will slowly sat back down, the look of pure elation on his face fading.
“Hey,” I said suddenly. “How about we lead Alex and the choir?”
Will looked up at me, hopeful. “You like to lead, right? Let’s lead them!”
So Will and I stood up, right there in the aisle, and we led the choir and Alex in “Little Drummer Boy.” Most of the choir didn’t watch or realize what we were doing, but Will conducted that number with all his heart and soul, waving his arms around exuberantly, a look of serious concentration on his face. Alex paraded the choir around the auditorium and right past us. As he got closer, I took Will by the shoulders and moved him right into Alex’s path so he could give him a high-five.
Instead, Alex saw young Will and pulled him in for an embrace. His dad quickly grabbed his camera and captured his beautiful son resting his head on his idol’s chest, holding him tight.
It makes me teary thinking about how something so small as me just striking up a conversation with a stranger turned into one of the most magical moments I’ve ever experienced at a concert.
“Thank you,” his dad said, giving me a hug as well. “Thank you so much.”
If you’re struggling to know what gift to give as Christmas quickly approaches, may I suggest giving of yourself. A smile, a hug, a kind text or an interest in a stranger just might be the best gift they receive this year.
Thank you, Will, for being mine.