Surprises await

We resume classes at the community college next week and as I do at the start of every semester, I wonder what surprises await me. One of the most memorable came five years ago this month.
It was in one of my journalism classes. The previous November, prior to a hockey game in Toronto, the arena’s microphone had cut out just as the singer began the U.S. National Anthem. It’s common practice for both the Canadian and American anthems to be sung at games between Canadian teams and U.S. teams, in this case the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Nashville Predators.
It took a moment for the Toronto fans to realize what was going on, but when they did, all joined in and sang the entire Star Spangled Banner themselves. The moving video, was shown on television news all over the U.S. and drew more than 5 million views on the internet. “How many Americans know the words to the Canadian national anthem?” I asked the class, assuming the answer was a big, fat none.
But I was wrong.
“I do,” said one student.
I was skeptical, but on second thought, I shouldn’t have been. This student, let’s call him Michael (because, well, that’s his name) had been surprising me since the first time I met him. Few people, students or otherwise, have made my jaw drop as much as this guy. I’ve heard him quote entire passages of Shakespeare. I’ve heard him quote entire passages of the Bible. I’ve listened as he spoke fluent Polish with a student from Poland. I’ve also heard him speak fluent French. He even knows Latin.
It seems he’s read every book I have and several I have not. And seen ten times the movies.
Michael was what we call a non-traditional student. Which means he was no kid when he came to the college. He already had a good deal of living under his belt, including a stint in the military.
“Go ahead and sing it,” I said to him that day, not a challenge because I learned long ago not to challenge Michael, but more of a request.
And he did sing it. Two verses, every word, deep baritone, perfect pitch.
I started the applause when he finished and the rest of the class joined in.
Michael and I still get together from time to time. I almost always bring up that day.

Ed Ackerman