Throughout our 140th Celebration Week, Ken Medema led our students, staff, alumni, 140th Celebration Event guests, and grandparents in worship. But what you might not have known, was that Ken also led a small conversation with one of our students here at West Side Christian School–Tryson, a 7th grader.
Ken started the conversation by saying to Tryson, “Today, we’re going to talk about you.”
To which Tryson said: “Why?”
From the time Ken was born in Grand Rapids in 1943, he has been visually impaired, his sight limited to distinguishing between light and dark, and being able to see fuzzy outlines of larger objects. By the time he had entered West Side Christian School as a student, he had been learning from a piano teacher who taught Braille music, improvisation, and playing by ear for years. Music was–and still is–a second language for Ken. He’s played for 49 United States and in more than 15 countries on four continents, and become one of the most creative and authentic voices in Christian music to date.
Tryson developed a visual impairment around the first grade. But like Ken, Tryson, his teachers, and his parents haven’t let this define him. He’s a hockey player, a long jumper, and likes listening to music and jokes on Youtube. When Ken was his age he was a water skier, a blossoming musician, and he rode his bike to school (despite the pesky obstacle of a fence on his route he “made friends with” often). Ken found out that Tryson is the only student allowed to wear a baseball cap in school to help protect him from bumping his head on things. Ken chuckled and said “Why didn’t I think of that?! It would have saved me a lot of bumps and bruises.”
When Tryson asked why the conversation was supposed to be all about him, it’s because he knows he and Ken aren’t defined by their “legally blind” diagnosis.
When the two of them sat down together in one of our practice rooms, with Mrs. Rodenhouse–our Braille Specialist–nearby, what took shape was a conversation full of stories and jokes that had all three of them laughing.
“A high jumper walks into a bar. His coach yells, ‘No, you’re supposed to jump over it!’” Tryson says, and Ken laughs a deep belly laugh, declaring he hadn’t heard a good joke like that in a long time.