Abby Henkel Perfetti, ICC/IYC Alumna, 1996-2002
Growing up Unitarian Universalist, most of my family and school friends were liberal in politics and religion. When I joined ICC in 5th grade, I met more kids with conservative backgrounds and many different viewpoints from mine. Many of my ICC peers knew I wasn’t Christian, and I knew some of them were uncomfortable with that. But we all connected through music. Singing together, traveling to new places, and making beautiful music for others to enjoy showed us that we had so much more in common than what divided us. We learned how to work with people who seemed very different from us and create something meaningful. I know the value and importance of connecting with diverse groups of people. If they have an appreciation for beautiful music and self-expression, even better.
I was 13 when we toured Brazil in 1999, and it was my first time on a plane and my first time out of the country. I had never seen slums before, and I didn’t truly understand what poverty was. So many memories from that trip impacted me, but a couple particularly remained with me.
For tours, we purchased and wore matching uniforms, which could get costly even though the ICC worked very hard to make it affordable for all singers. There was a boy in the choir who had an ICC windbreaker that was clearly second-hand. It had a monogram stitched in, but all the letters except one had fallen off. Another kid asked him if he had bought that used, and his tone implied that it was something to be embarrassed about. The kid with the windbreaker proudly said, “Yeah, my mom thought of this!” I remember thinking, “Good for his mom! Who cares if his clothes are used?” It could seem trivial, but that was a big moment for me in realizing that money doesn’t reflect the character of a person at all. The boy had the kind of confidence I wished to emulate.
Another experience from Brazil was when we did a homestay with a friendly family in Brasilia. Instead of refrigerating the milk, the family sat it out on the kitchen table. I remember thinking how funny it was and how they didn’t know it was supposed to be in the fridge. But the more I got to know the family over the few days we stayed there, the more I came to love their lifestyle and to realize that the way we did things in my family and my friends’ families wasn’t the only way to do things. I remember thinking that Brazilian cities were a lot like American ones in so many ways, and there are also many things we do and think differently. The ICC has taught me how to openly appreciate new and different cultures.