Alas for those that never sing,
But die with all their music in them!
~Oliver Wendell Holmes
My son Gabe recently posted a song on YouTube:
His song speaks gently, but powerfully about the pain that those suffering from mental illness endure. I am amazed at his insight and touched by his tenderness. But I am not surprised. Music has been a part of his life since he was a toddler. When he was two, he listened to the opening chorus of a Winnie the Pooh record so many times he wore a hole in the vinyl. As a preschooler, he would frequently hum bars of music under his breath while playing with toy cars and Lincoln Logs. In elementary school, he arranged books on his bed as a makeshift drum set and pulled elastic bands over tissue boxes to form a guitar. When he was an awkward, tongue-tied teenager, he wrote lyrics instead of doing his homework, allowing the poetry to speak words that his mouth could not.
In our home, music was at the core of most activities. I cried while slicing onions and listening to “Aidia” and “La Boheme.” I danced with newborns to Hayden and Beethoven, and polished furniture while singing along to “Phantom of the Opera” and “Rent.” The children fell asleep most nights while listening to their dad play scales on his guitar, and chased each other under the pews of our church sanctuary while our worship team practiced on Saturday mornings. To them, music is as automatic as breathing, the moments of their lives set against an ever-changing sound track of notes and lyrics.
Still, when I hear them create new melodies and pen their own poetry, I can’t help but marvel that they have not only appreciated the talents of other musicians, but have dared to share their souls with others. They bare themselves, removing the distance that protects them from their critics, and allowing their innermost feelings to lie exposed, open to harsh comments carelessly hurled in their direction.
They know that eras in history are earmarked by the songs that are popular with the masses. More importantly, they understand that music is a powerful medium that can catapult society into an environment of change. They know this because I introduced them to Dylan, Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary. They show this because they introduced me to Damien Rice and Sufjan Stevens.
I believe that when God gives us gifts, He gives us the responsibility to use those gifts in a way that makes this planet a little better for those who inhabit it.
Thank you to those who shoulder your responsibilities and share your gifts. If you don’t mind, I’ll sing along.