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March is a fine time to fine-tune that one string

• Mar 15, 2018 at 2:00 PM

Today was the perfect day to step out of the winter doldrums of Michigan living and bask in the glorious sunshine that lasted most of the day.

Ever since I received the District Times newsletter from Loutit District Library, I have been waiting to go see the Grand Haven High School Irish fiddle group, GOTAK. This is an after-school alternative string ensemble founded in 2005 by current GOTAK director and Grand Haven High School orchestra director Melissa Meyers.

As I drove into town, I saw the library parking lot was filling up an hour ahead of the performance, so I decided to park at my office and walk over. Even though the sun was out in full force, the air was nippy and breezy. March is always a lot like that — just enough sun to make you think spring and just enough chill in the air to remind you that it’s still winter.

An hour before the performance, the library was filling up quickly. Lots of the seats were already filled or draped with coats and scarves to save for those yet to arrive. While waiting for the concert to begin, I indulged myself in a walk about and renewed all my books waiting to be read. Fortunately, I kept myself in check and did not find more books to take home today.

On my walk-about, I viewed the wealth of resources the library has to offer. How can anyone be bored when we have public libraries? Not only are there shelf upon shelf of books for young and old, but a great volume of CDs, audio books, book club bags of books, magazines, genealogy resources, reference materials, a computer lab, and on and on.

While waiting for the performance to begin, I grabbed a pencil and scrap paper and started to jot ideas for this article. I slowly began to realize that people were going around the library moving any chair they could find over to the lobby for the performance. When I sat down to write, I had not realized that I had also saved myself a seat!

When I heard the introductions begin, I moved my chair over to the lobby area and sat it in between book shelves (risky for me) ready to enjoy some Celtic music. The director of the group gave some background on the group’s origins and why its name is GOTAK. GOTAK sounds “Celtish,” but it actually stands for Group of Totally Awesome Kids — and that they were!

The group looked really fun loving and happy in their performance T-shirts. They ranged in age from ninth- to 12th-graders, and keep a busy schedule especially during the week of St. Patrick’s Day. Their instruments are mostly string instruments. Some students did instrumental or vocal solos during their songs. The enthusiasm of their performance was quickly picked up with everyone clapping along and tapping their feet.

At the end of the hour’s performance I was sold on GOTAK. These kids are a wonderful example of the kind of kids who use their talents to make wonderful music and share their talents with the community. We are so fortunate to have them as part of our community.

Just like the doldrums of winter, there are times when all we see are negative images of the youth today. We see their overuse of technology, or their substance abuse, or their tattoos, or their strange hairdos, or their body piercings, or just them being and acting like kids which may look so different from our own vantage point. We can be too focused on who they appear to be instead of who they are.

There are many days when my first thoughts are about the fact that the sun is not shining. Those gloomy days distract me from looking for the beauty of Michigan — like seeing the ducks, geese and swans that have just started to appear on the pond. I forget that it’s a choice to see the glass as half-full or half-empty.

This reminds me of the famous quote by Charles R. Swindoll:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past … we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent of how I react to it. And so it is with you ... we are in charge of our attitudes.”

This quote is always a good emotional kick in the pants for me. It’s a reminder that there is a choice in how we act and react. Like the GOTAK group that made beautiful, energizing music with their string instruments, we can play the one string we have, which is our attitude. It’s time for me to fine-tune that one string.

— By Janice R. Beuschel, Tribune community columnist

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