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Life Grows through a Screen Door

By Shaya Barry


My little brother swings upside down from our tree. I guess anything can happen after a stranger races through our kitchen screen door without knocking.  

The new neighbor shows me her old rock climbing harness: “Can you use this?”

Within an hour, the neighborhood watches me strap my little brother in the equipment. As his shaggy hair bounces above me, the future unfolds in my mind—an extreme adventure camp for nine-year-olds in my backyard. Two months after my neighbor’s unexpected screen door entrance, I open my forty-eight-hour camp in my backyard and make four hundred dollars. For a twelve-year-old, that is a good profit.

Unlocked and unblocked, our kitchen screen door beckons anyone to enter at any time. Today, I arrive home from soccer practice as my sister’s sign language teacher enters. I hold the screen door so she can bring in her bags. I let the door swing shut, and it jumps right back open. A former prisoner of war and ex-San Francisco newspaper editor says, “Hi,” and rushes past me to grab extra SF Giants tickets off the counter.  My younger brother’s friend races through the door, gives me a nod, grabs two eggs from the refrigerator, and starts cooking. The screen door welcomes a variety of interesting people and exciting ideas into my life, which harness my determination to grow.

And over time, the squeaky screen door has never stopped. A few years ago, I heard a scream as loud as any camper. “Anyone home?”  It was Maddy, my friend who had moved from China, coming over to play guitar for a couple of hours. As we played, I developed the idea to perform at an open mic the following night. Hours turned into an all-nighter. I was determined to perfect the song . . . and to keep Maddy awake. The next night, we received roaring applause at Sweet Water.

Music comes through our screen door a lot.  As I walk in, I see Brittany, my deaf sister, and Sean Forbes, a deaf rapper. They are signing to the latest Imagine Dragons video.  Sean, my sister’s mentor and friend, brings music to the deaf and hard of hearing. I talk to him about ways to get my friends and classmates to attend his fundraising concerts for the organization, Deaf Performing Arts. I rally everyone to support him at his show, where we experience not only music, but a vibrating stage, exotic light patterns, multimedia text-based videos and a combination of sign language and dance movements—all for a cause.  This body-shaking experience and excitement I see in Sean awakens my determination to contribute to my community.

Not long after, David, a tall stranger, enters. He sees me in my muddy soccer cleats and long socks after a grueling tournament win. David helped build Positive Coaching Alliance, which teaches life lessons through sports, and encourages me to apply for the organization’s National Student Board. I instantly relate to PCA values like making my team, the game, and myself better. My dedication to bringing PCA’s message to other kids is relentless as I organize a fundraising drive. After contacting PCA members to figure out how I can best contribute, I discover music is the answer. I decide to write and perform a song called “Hold Your Light High” that communicates PCA’s message of leading by example.

I call a Nashville songwriter, who is a family friend, to help me through these uncharted territories. She gives me hours of phone lessons to prepare me for the recording studio. PCA execs recognize my devotion and ask me to speak at the National Coaches Awards dinner.  In the end, the song reaches one hundred million people, and like that summer camp or performance with Maddy, it all starts with the opening of the screen door.

Shaya Barry graduated from Redwood High School last night and will be attending University of California at Berkeley.