Sunday, December 11, 2011


So many times I think we forget about the impact that we make on others on a daily basis and the impact that others have on us. Lately I've been thinking a lot about the butterfly effect and my freshman and sophomore years of high school. For those of you not familiar with the term, Wikipedia defines the butterfly effect as:
In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions; where a small change at one place in a nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state. The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane's formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before.

Although the butterfly effect may appear to be an esoteric and unusual behavior, it is exhibited by very simple systems: for example, a ball placed at the crest of a hill might roll into any of several valleys depending on slight differences in initial position.

The butterfly effect is a common trope in fiction when presenting scenarios involving time travel and with "what if" cases where one storyline diverges at the moment of a seemingly minor event resulting in two significantly different outcomes.
Basically it the thought that one little, seemingly minor, occurrence can have lasting impact on the world around us. This thought is extremely apparent today.

Last night I helped a friend with a Christmas party and was out late and very tired when I got home. I noticed on facebook on my phone that a few people had posted in a group that I am an admin on. This wasn't too unusual as people post in this group quite frequently. This morning I woke up and saw that something like 26 people had posted since the night before. I knew something had to be up and I knew it was probably not good.

This particular group is called "Thank you, Stan Stevenson" and it is a group that started as a way for people to express their gratitude to a wonderful man. Much as I feared when I looked at facebook this morning I was correct in the feeling that I had deep in the pit of my stomach: Stan had passed away yesterday afternoon. Since I wasn't really on facebook I had not seen the outpouring of grief from my high school friends and somehow I had not gotten a text about this (which is really fine because I would have broken down at the party last night).

Stan Stevenson was my high school band director. If you know me then you know that I do not have a musical bone in my body, yet somehow I ended up in band and show choir (high school is weird like that). My best friend was in band in middle school and then in high school joined the color guard. Seeing that she was my best friend, my freshman year I ended up hanging out with all her band friends, most of which were older than us. I had the best times of my life with these people. As the months wore on I ended up helping out with winter guard and ended up on many, many bus trips. Then my junior year I joined guard too and was officially in band. (I'm still wondering how this all happened.)

I would not trade those memories for anything. As I became better and better friends with all of these "band nerds" I also got to know Stan. Stan was the best guy you could ever imagine. His daughter Katie was a year older than me and we were close friends. Stan was the kind of guy that was like a dad to everyone. If you were in any way connected to the band you were one of his "kids."

There were honor roll students and kids that never saw an A on a report card.
There were kids that were outgoing and kids that were ridiculously shy.
There were natural born leaders and those that needed to be pulled out of their shell.
There were popular kids and not so popular kids.
Some had no musical talent and some were destined to keep playing forever.
But they were all Stan's kids.

Whoever you were Stan cared about you. You might have drove him a little crazy at times (you know who you are), but he always cared. He was a constant throughout high school and even after. He always encouraged his kids to do their best. He showed them what they could accomplish and how worthy they were of feeling good about themselves. He was so much more than a teacher and a band director. He was the kind of person that every kid should have it their life during a time that can be dramatic, messy and emotionally damaging.

If you have never experienced what it is like to have 100+ brothers and sisters, all of which you loved and hated at some point during the year, but who you would stand up for no matter what was going on, then you have certainly missed out. I look back at my high school years and know that I can pick up the phone and call any one of them and know that I will still have a friend. How many people can say that they still talk to their high school friends on a weekly, if not daily, basis sixteen years later? Stan made that happen. He had this power to pull this rag-tag group of kids together into an amazing family.

I have so memories with these people that I could write all day. I will spare you that, for now, and probably will pick it up later. One I would like to share was the summer after my freshman year of high school. Everyone always is ready to get out of school when that day in May rolls around. Most people want as far away from the building as possible. If you were in band at Ardmore High School that was simply not the case, though. Our drum line practiced all the time and that summer they did concerts every week, on Tuesday, I think. Not only would the drummers show up, but all the rest of us would pile into the band room and listen to the new cadences that they were learning. C-los (my fav), and Peanut Butter and Jelly and so many more. Now I will admit that there always seemed to be a drummer that I had a "thing" for and that probably made me show up a little more, but hey, what can you do?

The other thing that was pretty amazing about this group was that a section of them put together a jazz band, Java Jazz, that played at Kimberlee's By the Cup in our local mall. These kids just put this together themselves, found a "gig" and we all showed up every Saturday to listen to them and hang out.

Stan instilled such a love of music in my friends that they wanted to keep playing, even though school was out and they didn't have to. That says something.

After learning of the news this morning I was looking at the posts in Thank you, Stan Stevenson, on his personal page, and just throughout statuses amongst my friends. They all said the same thing: how wonderful he was, how he impacted our lives and made us the people we are today. So many times when someone passes away people come out of the wood works to say "nice" things about them, no matter what kind of person they really were. In this case every word is true and we told him all the time. I think that is the one thing that gives me peace in this situation: knowing that we were all very open and honest about our feelings. The posts were not just from kids that I went to school with, but from those that were at the schools before Ardmore and the schools after. One thing remained the same: everyone expressed how much of an impact he made on them.

My last memory of seeing Stan was last fall. I had gone to a football game in Pauls Valley to watch my friend Lisa (also my former high school vocal music teacher)'s son play. One of my friends, Drew, is the band director at Pauls Valley,  having taken over when Stan retired a few years ago. Stan was still an active part of the PVHS band and was at the game. Lisa and I went over and chatted with him for the majority of the third quarter. We were reminiscing and talking about the past and telling funny stories. We were laughing so hard we were crying. While I am sad that I have not seen him in over a year I am so thankful that my last physical memory of him was talking and laughing until we cried. That is exactly how I remember him and how I will continue to remember him.

I think when you look back at high school you might be lucky to have one teacher that might have made a little change in the way you look at life or shaped your world. I look back and realize that I have three. My band director, vocal music director and drama director. (This is why the arts need to stay in schools people!!!! Okay stepping off that soap box.) When I think of how powerful a teacher's influence can be on a child's life I think of these three. What I realize, when looking back, is that not only did they genuinely care about me when I was in school, but they continued to care about me and love me through my life. What started out as a student and teacher turned into a lifetime of friendship. I am sad that there aren't more people that can say that. What I do know is that anyone who was ever one of Stan's kids can say that without hesitation.

I help with a youth group and I love my teens. I'm not a huge fan of small kids, at all, but there is just something about working with teenagers that I adore. They might drive me crazy from time to time (or all the time) but I know what a hard time in life the teen years can be and I know how much I loved my time in high school and I want nothing, but the same from them. I know that this love for this age had to have come, in part, from Stan, Lisa and Carla. I pray that I can have even a fraction of the impact on "my" kids that those three had on me.

I am sad that there are generations of kids that won't get to know what a wonderful man Stan was, but I know that his impact will be lasting through those that he did touch. He made a legacy that will live on forever. Whether to you he was Mr. Stevenson, Stan the Man, Stan, Stev-o, Butch, Papa Stan, or just Dad if you knew him you loved him and knew he loved you and you probably have a story or two that you could tell about him.

Rest in peace Papa Stan. Give Katie a big hug for me. And know that you made a profound impact on my life and I am thankful that I got to be one of your girls.

Stan Stevenson
August 7, 1953 to December 10, 2011
You will be greatly missed.