Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Many years ago, I was given the chance of a lifetime... To serve as an interim music director for my church. It was an opportunity for which I was extremely unqualified, having never conducted a choir before... Though the pastor insisted I try, somehow sure I would succeed. And succeed I did, at least for the five short months I stayed in the role. And yet, I now know my success wasn't for the reasons I've always thought. Above and beyond the regular weekly rehearsals and Sunday morning services, I can remember spending hour after hour organizing the church music library so I'd know its contents, along with countless additional hours at home in front of a keyboard, recording and learning each vocal part so I could then conduct the entire choral ensemble. For the longest time, I was convinced my efforts alone were the reason I succeeded... And yet the reason was much simpler... It was love.

A few years earlier, in the fall of 1990, I became a father, a role I was sure I would fail at. Before my daughter was born, I read books and articles, attended Lamaze classes, wrestled with car seats, ordered toys specially designed to aid in the development of children. And after she was born, I was her first primary care giver (as I worked nights at the time, while my wife worked during the day), making up bottles of formula, changing diapers, playing with her on the carpet. As my daughter grew, I played dress-up and other games with her, watched innumerable Disney movies... And, though I've since made more mistakes than I care to recall, I always considered my early parenting successes were directly related to all the effort I put in... Which was wrong... They were also due to love.

In those formative months and years, it wasn't the toys from Parent's Magazine or animated Disney masterpieces like The Great Mouse Detective that put a smile on my daughter's young face... It was her certainty that she was loved. When my wife and I, near bankruptcy after a childbirth-related insurance debacle left us without the financial resources to even afford diapers, it was the love of my mother that helped us. And a few years later when I took the reigns of that church choir in Tracy, California, all my efforts would've come to naught if it weren't for the love of the pastor, Dr. R. Michael McLellan, the church organist, Bernice White, and parishioners like Cathy and Harold Reich, Virginia Moss, and Harold Hazen, people who provided me with unasked for support and assistance when I needed it most, therefore ensuring my success.

Perhaps then it's not altogether unusual that the only two pieces of music I can still remember from that brief musical experience so many years ago were also about love. The first was entitled The Story of Love, a Christmas cantata written by an Army chaplain whose experiences in the midst of Hell on Earth during the Vietnam War inspired him to write about the ultimate gift of love, that of a benevolent creator who gave his only son to save the souls of humanity. The other piece was even more unusual. Entitled Faith, Hope, and Love, it was an old anthem written in the 1960's, with an odd plainsong feel to it, based upon a well known Bible verse that includes the words "Faith, hope, and love abide, but the greatest of these is Love."

"... The greatest of these is Love." Imagine that. Savor it, let it simmer and stew within you for just a moment. That above faith and hope, there is love. Think about it from the perspective of your own life and the true joys you've experienced, the most rewarding successes you've achieved, or the fulfillment granted you by your closest personal relationships. Set aside your ego, your self for a moment and ask yourself, was it really you or something you did that made possible your life's greatest moments? Or rather, was it something else, something more along the lines of giving instead of taking, of releasing control instead of controlling, of the caring support of others versus your own personal accomplishments... Something like love.

For none of us are islands unto ourselves. Regardless of how good we are at something, there's always someone better; And no matter how competent we are, or how much we think we're in control, even the best of us needs a helping hand on occasion. And where- and whenever we come up short, there is love. When we encounter people we don't understand, people we think are so different from us that we want to reject or refute their very existence, there is love. When our pride demands we succeed at all costs, without asking for or accepting help from anyone else, there is love. When the pressures of life become so great they seem to smother our very souls, forcing us to cry out for solace, or even an end, there is love.

Think about it.

Labels: , , , , , ,