Recently I overheard two people greeting one another in the grocery store.  “How areyou?” the woman asked.  “Oh, you know,” the man replied as he grabbed a box of Cheerios off the top shelf, “livin’ the dream.”

I am trying to find the dream around here. In the studio, we have just finished our fourth week of lessons. Yes, fourth week.  On one hand, I don’t want to be teaching this load when the temperatures hang fast in the upper 90s. I want to be swimming. Or eating popsicles. On the other hand, we have just finished our fourth week of a sixteen-week semester, which means we are a quarter done already. We had our first All Studio class of the year last Friday; the new Little Ones have all met their older “studio friend,” a sort of mentor relationship I am very intentional about creating and cultivating within our community. “I can’t wait to see Audrey,” said Lucie in her lesson last week. “She will always be my very special piano friend.” Lucie is no-longer-quite-a-Little One, and Lucie and Audrey have been studio partners for several years now. I didn’t dare tell Lucie that Audrey is a senior and will be leaving us next year. But then sometimes special friends come back. On Friday we had a former Little One, now an Oberlin student home for the summer, helping me to manage the crowd of energetic young pianists. “How was class?” asked Matt when I got home. “It was pretty much a dream,” I answered. “Twenty-six kids and me.” Exhausted, I set down my bag and took off my shoes. “I need a gin and tonic.”

The cats are living the dream, as this has been a record year for moths. They love moths, or rather, they love to torture moths, batting them senseless and then running around the house carrying the little guys in their mouths. “I don’t think the moth did anything to deserve that,” one student remarked watching the girls play, tormenting some poor winged creature. She was right.

Matt, however, seems bent on saving moths in a charming sort of way. One night he announced at dinner that he had rescued two moths from the choir room at church and released them outside. “Well, that’s great,” I replied, flashing immediately to the trite Chicken Soup For the Soul story about saving starfish. The point of the starfish story is that, in spite of the futility of saving starfish on the beach (after all, there are thousands! Ten thousand, probably!),throwing them back in the water is a small act of hope and kindness. Besides, as the punch line of the tale goes, it “matters to that one.”

“What are you trying for here?” I asked Matt. “Chicken Soup for the Choir Directors Soul?”

Without missing a beat, Matt said, “Matters to that moth.” Ah, the dream is alive and well.

Of course, the care and the rescue of the individual is the point in most of the microcosms of our lives. We teach not the faceless sample or target populations that make up the research, but the individual, vulnerable human beings that walk through our doors:  Camille, with her freckles and quirky learning curves; Tony, with his boundless enthusiasm and energy; Sophie, with her fast fingers and quicker mind. Matters to that one, we tell ourselves, and that one, and that one.

Some of my former starfish students have been flung far, living and playing across the country. “What’s new?” I email them, nudging my way into their worlds. “Oh, livin’ the dream,” responded Kara.

“You know,” I write back, “you are the second person this week I have heard use that phrase. The other guy was about 60 with a long grey ponytail and Birkenstocks. So 1970s of both of you.”

Several days passed. Then I got this reply:

“Amy, I’m pretty sure it isn’t the same dream. Love, Kara.”