This Kid Needs Help!

The kid needs help . . . serious help and I don’t know where to send him. He just can’t focus.

I remember seeing my friend John standing on a pitcher’s mound wearing Triopia blue and facing down a mean little team from West Central in his senior year of high school. The score was tied and it was up to John to strike out the last three batters. He wound up, let the horsehide fly, and forced all three swingers to ground out. Okay, John Love was not the first kid to win a ballgame, but John had to appear onstage that night and I know that between batters he was probably rehearsing his lines. The kid just has no focus.

John’s a big guy with a smile that’s a reflex rather than a plan. He left the Trojan hallways a couple of years ago and now takes up residence in an Illinois College dormitory. It’s legal. He pays tuition. But his inability to focus has followed him to college. In addition to being the slam-dunk basketball champion in high school basketball and chosen as a member of the all-state football team and the ace pitcher on Triopia’s baseball squad, he also taught himself to play piano. . . and the accordion . . and the ukulele. . . and the banjo. No focus.

So, you might ask, which of these skills would he choose for a major in college? He’s attending IC on a theatre scholarship! He just can’t focus! In a single day I’ve seen him win a ballgame, take a lead role in a play, then return home to write a song on the piano and pluck around on this banjo. What’s this world coming to? Are we ranging an entire generation of kids who can’t set a single course and follow it?

I think the problem may be genetic. He has a mother who actually encourages this sort of foolhardy behavior. She supports this schizophrenic lifestyle. It’s no wonder kids are so mixed up today. In fact, her last eighteen years have been one long series of attending plays, ballgames and concerts. The poor kid doesn’t have a chance with such upbringing.

It’s the joke around his household that if John receives a musical instrument on Christmas morning he’ll be playing it by lunchtime. Showoff. It took me many painful months to learn what the heck to do with the left-hand side of an accordion and John picked up the technique in a matter of minutes. Some call this genius. I think he’s on musical steroids.

In his early years when he took a few piano lessons his mother would be befuddled as she listened to him practice. Instead of playing the notes that were on the page John would be doing his own variations and arrangements from his “Teaching Little Fingers To Play” lesson book. See what I mean? A complete lack of focus.  When a friend bought him a four-string banjo John mastered it shortly after taking it out of the case then discovered that they also make banjos with five strings. If you don’t play the banjo, let me give you a clue: there’s a whole world of difference between a four and five-string banjo. I can play a four stringer so that should give you a hint as to the ease of the instrument, but when you add that fifth string it’s like jumping from Sesame Street to Beethoven. This was a tough transition for John when he received his new five-stringer last Christmas. It took him nearly half a day to learn.

And what makes things even worse is the fact that a whole generation of little rascals in the Jacksonville area actually looks up to John and venerates this bi-polar behavior. I’ve seen John in his role as summer camp counselor and he can’t even walk across a campground without being mobbed by little admirers.  He’s like a walking plague, infecting the next generation with his inability to focus on a single skill. In the old days we used to medicate people like this. Today we give them scholarships.

So be prepared. If the coming generation begins to start expanding and exploring their talents instead of focusing on one ability for their entire lives, we’ll have people like John Love to blame. If you suddenly find your son or grandson insisting that there’s more to life than a baseball or ball diamond or worst of all insist that he try his hand at everything, then you now know whom to call.  Imagine . . . an entire world full of unfocused, multi-talented kids whose main concern is not for themselves, but for making the rest of the world a better place! What’s this world coming to! We’re losing our focus!

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About the author

Ken Bradbury is an adjunct instructor of theatre at LLLC after retiring from Triopia. He entertains on the Spirit of Peoria riverboat and is the author of over 300 published plays. Website:

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