A Night To Shine
I have great memories from attending Prom in high school. I was crowned Prom Queen my senior year so who wouldn’t have great memories. But I look back and reflect on my prom experience and it was all about me - what dress I’d wear, who I’d go with, the makeup, the hair, the food, what songs I’d hear, what games I’d play at after-prom, and on and on and on.
All about my preferences and my chance to have a perfect night.
Flash forward a decade or so and here I am attending prom again. Perhaps this time the only piece I fretted about was my attire. I did pick a dress of mine to wear, but gone were the days of agonizing over the perfect dress and shoes, hair and makeup. Because this time, this prom, known as A Night to Shine https://www.timtebowfoundation.org/index.php/night-to-shine/, wasn’t about me at all. It was about my guest and the 100 other special guests attending. A Night to Shine is a one night, once a year, prom event for guests with special needs. It is their night. Complete with a red carpet, limo rides, dancing, food, games, pictures, hair and makeup, and a crowning of kings and queens.
This was my second year volunteering for the event. I give thanks to my mother who taught special education for cultivating in me an understanding and appreciation of people with special needs. My first year volunteering I had grand hopes of dancing the night away with my new buddy and giving them a great experience. But as the night progressed my assigned buddy didn’t show up. I was told I could float around and see what other ways I could help throughout the night. After a few tears feeling sorry for myself I finally realized the absurdity of my feelings. This night wasn’t about me. I was there (whether I had an assigned buddy or not) to bring joy and share in hope with 100 special guests. So that’s what I did. I joined the party, I danced, I cheered, and I learned the valuable lesson once again that this life is always about serving our neighbors. And sometimes we are called to serve in ways that stretch us out of our comfort zone.
Flash forward one year later and for my second year volunteering I attended with a friend of mine, Miranda. Miranda couldn’t wait for the dance. She was ready to get her move on and make new friends. I told her I’d meet her as she walked in on the red carpet. As the volunteers gathered around the red carpet and the first guests arrived, the cheers started. And so did the tears.
This was a night to see the beauty in our neighbors and to remind them of that beauty.
It was a night to see the best of our calling as Christians, to love our neighbors and to serve God.
Down the red carpet guest after guest arrived. There were smiles and waves. There were dance moves. There was pure joy.
At one point during the night we were waiting in line to get our picture taken. Two young girls waited behind us with their buddies. Miranda says hello to them. She then asked them what their gift was telling them that her gift is Williams Syndrome. Friends meeting friends sharing together in their giftedness.
Perhaps the most anticipated and celebrated event of the night is the crowing of the kings and queens. Each guests gets crowned. Each guest receives a crown and a sash. At the appointed time the music faded and we gathered with our buddies. Sash and tiara in hand, I placed the tiara on Miranda’s head and told her, “You are a beloved queen, Miranda.” In that moment I could see so clearly God’s view of each of us - called and claimed and crowned as beloved children of God.
Miranda beamed and shined in all her beauty and fullness as a queen. I believe the entire room witnessed the reality that crowing these queens and kings didn’t recognize something new in them, but rather brought their beauty fuller into the light.