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Feel the Beat!

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Maureen Crowley

We've all been there -- we go to our favorite restaurant or hang out spot and something has changed. It used to be a place for relaxation and talking with friends or family. Suddenly, there is different décor and what seems to be thunderous music. Conversation has become impossible, and you can even feel the beat of the music! Take a moment and imagine it -- pretty disappointing, right? You'd probably find another place to frequent, one that suits your taste for quiet conversation. Others, however, may fill your empty seat, excited that the new management's loud, raucous music is perfect. That heavy beat makes them want to move with it!
During my visit to Malawi, a poor country in southeastern Africa, I met a school full of students who are thrilled by the pulsation of a tune. At Maryview School for the deaf, the beat is what is necessary for them to feel the music. They were excited to put on a show for me and the other members of the team from The Pontifical Mission Societies in the USA (TPMS USA). With your help, TPMS is supporting the education of these bright, gifted students.
We saw a classroom with desks set in a semicircle, giving each student a direct view of the teacher as they spoke using Malawian Sign Language. Lessons on the blackboard depended on the age of the students and subjects studied -- we saw math, science, and of course religion. That lesson of the day was about Jesus' use of parables as a teaching tool.
Once we moved into the gathering space/auditorium, we were introduced to the students and heard from teachers and administrators who told us how talented their young charges were when it came to music and dance.
Then, the show began.
In walked a middle school-aged girl with a large drum. She took a seat on the stage and began her loud, pounding rhythm. Eight uniformed girls with matching African cloth wrapped around them as skirts danced in and proceeded to perform a traditional Malawian dance for us -- all to the beat of the drum. They could feel it's vibration! As the rhythm changed, so did the intricacy of the beautiful dance.
Not to be outdone, the boys were next. Their five-and-a half-minute drum driven performance was part dance, part comedy show as they moved and mimed at the same time. Their message to younger students was that school was cool while smoking, drinking, and gambling were definitely not!
At Maryview, students are on the move in life, with help from TPMS USA. Help them feel the beat of God's love -- give to the missions!

- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.

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