Wednesday, August 3, 2022

A GRACE IN THE CROWD – Revisiting My “Aura Fixation”

The grade school concert was more of an obligation than a choice. You know, our friends’ kid was singing.

It was a pretty typical display of talents for that age group. A few kids could sing; most couldn’t; a few didn’t. (But, of course, talent wasn’t the point.)

By the end of the second number, I’d spotted her. A girl in the third row. She was far from the best looking of the kids on stage. I don’t know if she was an especially good singer. But there was something about her.

I was enjoying whole show—the expressions on the singers’ faces, the nervous, distracted body language—but my eye kept going back to that girl in the third row.  
What was it about her, I asked myself. For one thing, she was about the only kid smiling. That told me she liked singing, maybe even enjoyed having an audience. (Or her mom was an ex-beauty pageant contestant who’d drilled the smile thing into her.)

There were subtler graces too: at one point, between numbers, she turned and said something to the nervous looking boy next to her. Maybe a word of encouragement.

I couldn’t single out the girl’s voice from the rest, but I knew that if singing turned out to be something she pursued—or whatever else, for that matter—she’d be successful at it.

      It was like watching the one student in a
      classroom who clearly gets the assignment.

Recently, Sally and I went to see Ain’t Too Proud, the fabulous musical about the life and times of the Temptations. The stage was full of performers—singers, dancers and actors—who were quite obviously the cream of the crop.

Even though the talent level was major league, there was still one performer who caught my fancy. He wasn’t the lead, just one of a number of characters who orbited the Temps’ inveterate leader.

Actor/singer Jalen Harris

But there were several things that kept my eyes coming back to him. First, his stunning eyes (I could see them pretty well since we were seated in the second row). Unlike the vast majority of African Americans, his are blue. And his connection with the audience, more than looking at some vague spot above our heads, was compelling. He actually made eye contact with folks, and, to the delight of the four young women sitting right in front of us, winked at them.

Mr. Blue Eyes also happened to be the best dancer—and the Temptations, like no other group ever, could dance. That, along with that electrifying, azure gaze, was so commanding that I almost wished I hadn’t noticed.


It was somewhere between T-ball and little league, just a kids’, parks-and-rec baseball game. This time Sally’s son, Matt, was the draw.

Of all those ten-year-old boys, half of them looked to be in over their heads with either the batting, the catching or the running…or all three. Nonetheless, I cheered Matt’s every move.

But once again there was this one boy on the other team I couldn’t help watching. More than just his obvious athletic skills—clearly a couple of levels more advanced than the others—it was his countenance, a grace in the way he carried himself, the way his eyes seemed to perceive the world around him. 

You could tell by watching the other boys’—even the coaches’—reactions to him that he was a natural leader. Like the one student in a classroom who clearly gets the assignment.


So, I’ve experienced this minor obsession with one person in a group countless times, in every imaginable setting, from busy street corners, to ballet performances, to riding a “chicken bus” in rural Guerrero, Mexico. One person I just can’t keep my eyes off of.

What does this say about me, I wonder. Does everyone suffer this affliction? Is it just a quirk of human nature or something particular to the way I observe the world? Does it border on the creepy?

Do graces in the crowd captivate you? We’d love to hear of your experience in “Comments.”

I’m sure I’ll keep spotting these beautiful people, the ones with the auras. I don’t think I can help it. But wouldn’t it be something if one of these days, while looking for some new face in the crowd, I should spot someone who can’t keep their eyes off of me? I won’t hold my breath…


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