Sunday, 24 April 2016

The Eerily Beautiful Purple Rain

This was originally posted on June 13,2015
I am posting it again in honour of Prince.  He wasn't just an iconic performer, he was a sweet guy.

In the summer of 2011, I travelled to Lesotho with 12 Guelph high school students.  These brilliant kids had been selected from each of their schools to join a group called 'Reach Lesotho'.   The brain child of an equally brilliant young man, Abid Virani, the Reach Lesotho kids worked tirelessly for 18 months educating themselves on international development issues and specifically the difficulties faced by the people of Lesotho.  I had the privilege of getting to know and love these students and the even greater privilege of leading them into this beloved country.

We were all changed by that trip.  Four years later, many of them are now completing their first university degree and heading into professional programs.  I am so proud of each one of them, for who they are and for what they have accomplished.

Reach Lesotho:  Summer of 2011

After every trip to Lesotho, I come home inspired to find unique ways to raise more funds for our programmes there.  I carry home with me the memory of the faces of our foster children, the women who struggle to keep their families alive and the sick who, despite incredible advancements in the treatment of HIV, continue to struggle for survival.  In the fall of 2011, I had the brilliant idea of holding a huge party in my front yard.  Remember my Batman?  The qualities that make my husband face home intruders in his underwear with bat in hand, are the same qualities that make it very difficult for him to relax when 200 people are partying in a huge tent on his front yard.

For nine years now, the internationally renowned blues artist, Steve Strongman and his band, have headed to Guelph to entertain his Guelph fans in a back yard party.  I admit that I am one of Steve's groupies.  His music is magical.  My good friend, Kevin Brown, feels the same way.  Up until 2011, Kevin hosted these back yard parties with all proceeds given to Bracelet of Hope.  Every year, Kevin's friends ( an army of them ) and family ( an army in and of itself ) would pile into his small back yard to enjoy good food, great company and the incredible musical talent of Steve and his band.  And every year, in true Ontario style, it would rain and the party would be moved into Kevin's small living room with Steve and his band belting it out in the corner, the couches moved aside and Kevin's beautiful hard wood floor straining under the weight of our middle aged dancing feet.

In 2011, to preserve that beautiful floor and anticipate the rain, I rented a huge party tent.  The good folks from Royal Rentals ended up donating the tent.  In the week before the event, they erected this monstrous white party tent, hammering pegs deep into the ground just above our weeping tiles, my husband looking on in horror.  He's such a good guy, my batman.  How many husbands would stand by as his crazy wife threatened the integrity of the household septic tank?  The tent was beautiful.  I will never forget driving home for weeks after the event, gasping as I caught the first glimpse of that majestic tent as it filled the space in front of our house.

We live on 11 acres in an old farm house.  The house sits in a small valley.  Even though we sit 300 meters back from the road, the acoustics of the valley heighten the sound of the cars as they whiz past.  As a result, it is not quite the quiet country property my husband hoped it would be.  But, who knew how perfect it would be for a party like this.  The property is not flat.  Not an inch of it anywhere.  Our dirt driveway climbs a hill to the house.  It's a hill.  It is not flat.  The tent was erected on a slope.  It was beautifully perched but obviously tilted.  We filled the tent with tables and chairs and food, a stage and, yes, a dance floor.  Who knew you could rent a dance floor?

About 150 people joined us that night.  My lovely prayer group ladies coordinated all the food.  Kevin's son, Richard Brown owner of Babelfish Bistro in Guelph, donated the best ribs I have ever tasted.  Steve and his band played for hours.  The dance floor was packed with multiple generations of people.   And I mean packed.  I watched.  Steve played his own music.  He also played the covers of songs that many at this party had grown up with.  Each time he played a new song, more people would flock to the dance floor until the dancers seemed to become one massive, moving unit.  They were dancing on a hill which made the unit slowly move toward Steve and the stage.  Every few minutes, the dancing mass would turn and dance back up the slope.  It was hilarious.

By one am, Steve was encouraging the crowd to let him go home.  I ventured into the house to see if my husband had survived the night without having a massive coronary.  He was asleep just as Steve and his band played the last song:  Purple Rain.  The song filled our little valley and echoed off the trees just as a post-midnight mist settled above.  It was so eerily beautiful.  I laid down for a minute, just to soak in the magic of the moment and thought of how blessed I was.  Who gets to be part of such joy?

We raised $26,000 that night for Bracelet of Hope just doing what people do best:  enjoying the company of others and celebrating the privilege of being alive.


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