Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
I've lived in white suburbia most of my life, and over the years I've had only a handful of friends who aren't white. I'd like that to change.
A few years ago I sang with a group that typically offers week-long festivals of classical choral music. This year they were offering a gospel week. I felt drawn to it but wondered how good it could be, because the other times I'd attended, almost everyone was white. I thought it would be artificial to have a primarily white chorus singing gospel music. But the conductor had a good reputation, and I decided to try it.
As it turned out, about a third of the group was African-American. The festival had gotten the word out, and experienced gospels singers had come.
The music seemed simple, but we festival veterans quickly saw that there was more to gospel than singing. Swaying and clapping were as fundamental to the spirit and message as the words and music. Many of us needed remedial training. Clapping on the off beat was no small trick. A woman stood up front for us to watch and follow. Sometimes our patient, determined director actually knelt in front of us and picked up and moved our feet. It was easy to feel like an utter klutz. But it was a lot of fun. And the spirit made me feel really alive.
One day I saw a woman on the lawn reading a book. I'd noticed her at rehearsal. She had a particularly spirited rhythm and a nice smile. I wondered if she could help me. Shyly, I asked her if she'd give me some tips. Her warm smile spurred me on, and I stood in front of her and strutted my stuff.
"Well, how do I look?"
"You look cool!" she said.
I still don't know whether that was truthful or compassionate. But it made my day. Perhaps my week.
But something bigger than learning to sway was happening as the week progressed. My eyes were opening to a whole segment of society I'd missed. I knew that racism, prejudice, discrimination, were wrong. We're all God's children, right? But all of a sudden my training to be "color blind" didn't cut it anymore. It was time to appreciate, to celebrate the color, not ignore it. All of a sudden my world was bigger, more beautiful - and more colorful.