I listened to the Writer’s Almanac on May 7 while driving to school and learned that Beethoven’s 9th Symphony premiered on that date in 1824. It was his last symphony. According to historical reports, the hall was sold out and Beethoven himself dramatically conducted the orchestra. As he conducted, he stretched to his full height, crouched down to the floor, and flailed his hands and feet. The interesting thing was that he was deaf. He heard only the magical sounds in his mind while reading the score with his eyes. He was several measures off from the musicians. However, a man named Louis Duport was standing off to the side conducting the musicians who followed him instead. At the conclusion of the piece, it was Beethoven who received five standing ovations.

Beethoven was oblivious to the fact the musicians were not in sync with him. He was in his head. His music was alive and at peak performance in the recesses of his mind. It mattered not to him that an accessory, Louis Duport, directed in his stead so the audience could experience the impact of the piece.

What do you have in your life: your skills, your gifts, or talents that, metaphorically make you stretch, crouch, and flail your arms or feet with joy and passion for what it brings to your being? Before placing this from my mind to the paper, I asked my husband Donnie what it would be for him. He immediately knew. For him it is listening to wonderful music, to quartets locking in on chords that are crystal and send him to heights of enjoyment. The other is sitting in a boat and feeling the “tug” of the fish taking the bait. Not catching the fish but feeling the tug! That makes him stretch, crouch to the floor, flail his hands and feet as Beethoven did, listening to the 9th Symphony in his passionate mind. For me it is sitting in a counseling session and in concert with my client aligning the fears and hurts to a new story that brings them to healing and wholeness. I stretch and crouch, flailing my hands and feet when I tell a story that connects with the eyes and hearts of the listeners as they enter in to the wisdom of the tale. We need no ovations when we revel in that which brings us to heights of enjoyment and ultimately purpose.

Reader, as you have learned, my life always centers on purpose and meaning. At times I feel like Beethoven, stretching, crouching, and flailing at the bliss of experiencing my greatest joys in life. At times I feel like Louis Duport, standing at the side conducting as I so want to help others find and celebrate their own purpose and meaning. What makes you stretch, crouch, and flail in response to the joy it brings to you? What are the “tugs” of which you cannot get enough?

Dr. Hixon and Principal Meyer at her graduation ceremony.

As we finish Teacher Appreciation Week, take time to thank any teachers who you know, for their continued courage to follow the joy of “conducting” from their heart to classes they teach who might not always be in sync with their “music,” but because of the love and passion they exert on a daily basis will stand in ovation for the impact it makes in their lives.

This is for you, Dr. Hixon. You stretched, crouched, and flailed your hands and feet as you taught me to counsel, to teach, and to lead. You were my teacher, my mentor, and then my colleague and for that I will always be grateful.