Friday, February 18, 2011

Southern delight

As an acceptance to an invitation from my dearest GG, my Friday evening was spent in the company of a much older crowd, listening to southern gospel tunes at a local church. Now, it's not out of the ordinary for me to willingly attend something like this. Southern gospel music is an innate love of mine. I can remember becoming entranced by the sounds of it reverberating from our TV as a child. Dad would have KVPT, our local public broadcasting station playing and I would join him. We commented back and forth on the songs, the instruments and the deep impressions they left on our souls.

Tonight, we experienced the final performance of Sons of the Shepherd, a group out of Tulare, Calif., as they sang of the goodness of a God who is with us in the valley as much as he is the mountain tops. Their voices prompted chills down my back and tears down my cheeks as they sang in harmonious glory. The trio consisted of a bass, a tenor and a soprano. At one point, I noticed how the soprano strained to reach his notes, while the tenor and bass stood effortlessly singing. He bent his knees, stooped his head, clutched his fist and turned red in the face to hit a certain pitch that perfectly enhanced those of the tenor and bass.

It made me think of how quick we are to try and “fit in.” I pondered what my impression of the group would have been had he been too afraid to stand out against the others. What if he talked himself out of his unique performance because it was different. What if the soprano strived for normalcy? My guess is that he would have fell flat. That the harmonies would have clashed and the audience would have felt uncomfortable. That is, if he went for it at all. He could have continued singing in a lower range, without even attempting the higher notes, in which case, we the audience would have been shortchanged.

But what a joy 1,300 people got to experience because one man chose not to be ordinary, but extraordinary. Despite the jeers he may possibly have received from underachievers, he chose to exit his comfort zone and coincidentally comfort the rest of us with his God-given ability to sing.

Tears streamed down the faces of spectators as they identified with the songs. GG, my 80-year old mentor, was particularly touched as they sang, “look for me, for I’ll be there too.” She has faced many tragedies in her lifetime and I could just feel the hope exuding from the lyric, that seeped into her soul. That one day she would see her sweet husband and daughter again.

Not only are we able to bless others when we choose not to be ordinary, we bless ourselves. I think about all that I would have missed out on, had I chose not to go last night because it’s not what ladies in their twenty-somethings do on a Friday night. As my eyes scoped the room, I noticed that the tops of the heads were overwhelmingly silver. Glasses rested on many of the faces of whose eyesight was diminished by age. Walkways accommodated walkers and the elderly occupied the seats. The ladies draped jackets over their shoulders as their weathered hands clapped to the rhythm of the music. I was, by far, one of the youngest people there.

But one thing I know--music is a powerful thing that speaks to young and old alike. I was moved to tears right along with the others. My toes were tapping and my hands were clapping just the same. The music touched my soul. And I was blessed by the company of GG, the southern delight, and my parents.