The One Thing That Never Fails to Make Me Cry


Flash mobs.

There, I said it.

My saddest little confession: flash mobs make me cry.

Every single time.

It all goes back to fifth grade at McNulty Elementary School. I had Miss Lampman, and we spent a good chunk of the year learning about the United States. To aid in our remembering them, we had to learn a song entitled ‘The Fifty Nifty United States’. It was simply a list of the states (in alphabetical order) set to music. [To this day, I can recite all fifty alphabetically thanks to this song. Try me.] The culmination of weeks of rehearsals was that we would go around to the other classrooms and sing it for them. This was before I became terrorized by performing or speaking in front of people, so I didn’t have any fear in my heart. Instead, I had the flu, and on the day we were set to perform, I had to stay home from school.

In truth, I totally forgot about missing the sing-along, even through most of the next day. But as we approached the last minutes of our final period, the teacher came up to me and said that everyone had been saying that they wished Alan had been there, so they recorded a video of one of the performances. Now, I’m always shocked that anyone thinks of me when I’m not around, much less talks about me. (Strange, but true.) So I was sort of thrown, and admittedly touched, that people even noticed. Then she started the video. Most of the class was concerned with finishing whatever projects they were working on, chattering on in end-of-the-school-day nonsense, but I leaned back against a desk and watched my classmates sing the song. The camera panned across the pool of faces, each person singing earnestly and unabashedly, and it felt for a moment like they were singing to me.

Now, I don’t cry in front of people. I barely cry when I’m not in front of people. And by the fifth grade, I was just as cold and stand-offish (in a lovable way) as I am today. So I was not prepared for what happened next.

About halfway through watching my classmates and friends and teacher, I started choking back tears. This immense wave of emotion at having been missed, a sign that surely I was part of something, came over me and my eyes welled up. I caught myself just in time, wiping away the first bit of salty water and willing myself to regain composure. I looked around at my classmates. A few looked back quizzically, then went on with what they were doing. A few smiled. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as much a part of something as I did at that moment.

And so, whenever I see a flash mob video it never fails to elicit a few tears, and a memory of the one day I felt like I belonged.

Here are a few of my favorites. You probably won’t cry at any of them (I have yet to meet someone who bawls like a baby at the sight of a flash mob), but for me each of these brought on some tears. In the first one, it’s the guy in business garb at the 2:50 mark who touches me the most.

In the next one, it’s the smiling spectator at 3:05 and 3:38.

And finally, this last one was all about the little girl conducting at 3:35 ~ along with the music, the faces, and the way people can still come together as one. How can you not be moved by that?

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