Today something common happened. Something that happens two or three times each weekend day in two or three cities around the United States each week.
Today something common happened. Something that I had never thought of before, never really noticed before.
Today something common happened and I finally noticed.
Today I took my family to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus in Orlando, Florida. We strolled among the animal enclosures admiring Asian elephants and several varieties of tigers. We stood in awe of beautifully groomed horses and somewhat obstinate zebras. As the animals were prepared for their part in the show the humans were herded towards the arena. There circus performers of every type mingled with the audience giving autographs, posing for photographs, smiling and waving. This was every day Americana.
When the lights were dimmed and everybody found their seats was when that something happened. One of the top ringmasters in the world, Tom McFarland, officiated. Tom McFarland is a ringmaster extraordinaire. He has the presence of the most highly paid motivational speakers in the world. When he enters the arena, you can almost see P. T. Barnum himself standing before crowds ushering them into the greatest show on Earth. Mr. McFarland’s singing voice is a rich baritone, but when he walked out he was not singing. He walked out humbly despite his grand and sequenced ringmaster’s uniform. Like the General he is (at least at the circus) Tom McFarland strode out in a single white spotlight. On the huge television screen appeared the Ringling Brothers “We Support Our Troops” ribbon.
The audience was hushed as a humble ringmaster stood and announced that he would like to thank the troops, those serving in foreign lands, those serving here at home and those in the Orlando audience. Mr. McFarland stated that he had served his country proudly for 12 years in the United States Army and wanted to invite one of his co-performers, a former Air Force Reservist to come forth.
Without fanfare the curtains parted and hoof beats could be heard. Like the Calvary of old, the single rider galloped into the arena carrying our nation’s flag. She stood erect in the stirrups as her steed halted and Mr. McFarland extended a hand. He invited the audience to rise and join him in the National Anthem. This is a scene not uncommon in American sports; a lone singer invites an audience to stand and for a moment we are all joined in support of our nation, our neighbors and our troops.
But today was somehow different. As the words began to ring across the arena, small children began to sing at the top of their lungs. Heard even above the amplified voice of Mr. McFarland and the brass of the band who accompanied him, little children sang:
“Oh say can you see by the dawn’s early light. What so proudly we hail at the
twilight’s last gleaming…”
In all my various professional roles, I have learned to avoid emotional displays, but tears streamed down my face as my voice joined the voices of hundreds of people saluting our nation and those 3,000 plus who have given their life for it in just the recent years.
Today, something beautiful happened and in words of the ending song to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey’s Greatest Show on Earth, “Anything is possible.”