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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Give a Kid a Drum (pa-rum-pa-pum-pum!)

Each year, I spend a bit of time volunteering in Salvation Army's toy warehouse, where they separate and distribute donated gifts to kids who otherwise wouldn't have much of a Christmas. My wife used to work for the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Clubs, which is how we got started; she usually puts in quite a bit of time, but I usually get in a time or two each holiday season.

Megan shared with me recently that one of the toughest groups to buy for is early teenage boys. They overwhelmingly want video games, which are in short supply among gifts donated; often the bulk of the gifts for that age group are basketballs and footballs. It gave me a thought: Why not get a kid a pair of drumsticks?

My next thought turned to adding a drum pad to the deal so as to save the poor parents' sanity and house, but think about it: For relatively cheap, you can get a kid a pair of drumsticks and a practice pad and potentially start a kid down the path to a lifelong love of music. Some of my fellow drummers may scoff at the idea of a drum being a "toy", but in the same vein that a football or a basketball is simply enjoyment for a novice or a potential means to success in the hands of a skilled master, so can a drum be. In the best case, the kid could learn to play the drums and become proficient. In the worst, they've at least got something they can beat on.

If you so much as read the premise of this blog, you know I love sports and I love music. But for my money, I'd much rather put drumsticks into a kids hands, even if only to diversify the offerings.

But it goes a bit deeper. Given the socioeconomic climate in this country, it isn't a stretch by any means to assume that a critical mass of the underprivileged children receiving toys through this and similar programs are black. So often, young black men are told, implicitly or explicitly, that the only way to improve their situation is to become a ball player (or a rapper). Why not send a different message with a pair of sticks?

I'm not trying to start a movement here, nor do I even think that my thought is particularly revolutionary. But I know what I'll be giving this season. If you're doing Toys for Tots, Stuff the Bus, or any other charity, and you like the idea, give a kid a drum.
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