A Place in the Choir
I will never forget watching that videotape. There on the second riser, he stands. He is playing with his tie. OK, now he is hitting other children with his tie. And what is he doing now? Oh my…he is now pretending to blow his nose on his tie and wipe it on others. This scene wouldn’t be so hard to watch…if this wasn’t happening in the middle of a junior high school choir concert. And this scene captured forever with video equipment his proud parents rented just for the occasion wouldn’t be so devastating to watch…if the child behaving this way wasn’t me.
This was not my first time singing in a choir. In fact, I’d been doing so for a while. But it was the first time I had ever behaved in this way. I still don’t know what came over me to want to clown around this way, but what was abundantly, embarrassingly, and mortifyingly clear was that I was breaking the cardinal rule of choral singing. It wasn’t that I was singing out of tune. I wasn’t even forgetting to count the rests. No, I was doing something much worse. I was making it all about me.
Perhaps more than any enduring liturgical element, a choir stands for the dual proposition that a) true beauty can arise from a community of individuals seeking a common, united purpose, and perhaps more practical, b) that there are some things that must be done together to be done at all. Yes, choral singing is a traditional way of sharing music during a religious service. But it also has a way of being of service to those who are sharing it.
Right now, in our country, in our shared human family, a new chorus of voices is forming—a children’s chorus. Rising up from the unnamable suffering beheld by this nation’s young people at the hands of unrestricted, unrepentant, and unyielding forces that parade and peddle fear in the guise of safety, a chorus is taking shape. Young people, the people most directly impacted by school shootings, are beginning now to rise together to do something great and unseen in most of our lives. Truly, a) their united response to suffering transcends explanation and ventures beyond beauty, into the holy; b) it is only in perfect unison harmony with their song that we might accomplish what must be done.
My friends, I will be in Washington D.C. on March 24th to march alongside these children in the rally they are calling upon their allies to join. I will not be there with any illusions that I might do anything alone to help this new chorus of voices—it is not about me, it is not about you. It is about the joyful and enduring hope that children, children, might know the peace of a world free from lethal threats in school hallways. It is about the sacred promise we make to leave the world better than we found it. It is about the gift of life and the short time we each have to share it.
I will never forget embarrassing my family in that chorus that day. But more than almost anything I can claim to know today, I promise never to forget joining the chorus of the youngest members of my human family as we rise together to sing a song of hope, a refrain of mercy, and a repeating sound of joy once more. Join me in spirit. I will have you all with me.
And may it ever be so.
In truest love,