prison choir

So I got on ye olde blog here this morning because I was thinking it’s really been sort of a long time since I’ve posted and I realized, it hasn’t just been a long time, it’s been a month. A MONTH.

What can I say?  It’s February.  Blech.

So then, just to make myself feel a little more badly over things not done, I decided to take a look-see at my drafts – you know, all the things I’ve partially written, or really wanted to save for later, when I could do it right.  They should call that section the graveyard.  Posting purgatory.  Because I save them over there and then NEVER LOOK AT THEM AGAIN.  Unless, you know, I’m wanting that little kick of extra guilt.  Like today.

And that’s how I found this, started sometime in December, after an experience of going to a prison to sing with my choir.  My mostly-white-but-led-by-two-precious-african-americans-who-got-us-to-sing-Mariah-Carey choir.  We kind of rock.  And we went to the prison where the prison choir sang for us, and then we sang for them, while they cheered us on.

*****

Why do I still think that I will know what to expect?

These prisoners had been to our church, once before; their choir came and sat in row after row of men in bright yellow jumpsuits.  We served them coffee and water, honey buns wrapped in plastic, bananas. When it was their turn to sing they walked to center stage and stood there en masse – somehow strong, awkward, proud, and vulnerable all at the same time.  I wondered about the middle aged man in the back row, surrounded by much younger men.  Or the young hispanic guy in the front who couldn’t stop smiling.

There was almost a physical shock in seeing 50 men – criminals, prisoners – standing right there in front of you.  In your church.  And then they began to sing.

What they lacked in training or depth of skill they made up for in sheer power.  Who else is going to sing no more cold iron shackles on my feet like someone who has known that as reality?

When the shadows of this life have gone
I’ll fly away
Like a bird from these prison walls I’ll fly
I’ll fly away

*****

What else did I mean to say?  I have no idea.  But I loved reading these words back today, as though from a stranger, because they spoke so strongly to how I can easily feel this time of year.  My default position for February, as it were.  The feeling of being shackled.  Grey walls surrounding me.

I needed to remember the picture of those men, to remember the bright hopeful yellow of their jumpsuits, the freedom and power they had found, were finding, in the middle of those concrete block walls.  Living their lives under the harsh florescent lights, they choose to sing.

Strangely enough, this afternoon a dear friend challenged me to write every day during Lent.  And I think I’m going to do it.  (Her other option was to do the master cleanse for Lent.  I think she was kidding, but I’m not sure.  She can be kind of hard core…). I’m trying to jump in without thinking too much.

I’m trying to hold my head up, look past the walls, and sing.

Anybody else wanna come along?

3 Comments

  1. Yes! I am all in.

    It was good to read and remember those strong voices. When are we going back?

  2. Bobby

    “But I loved reading these words back today, as though from a stranger”

    loved that line. i’ve seen those same foreign words staring back at me and wondered, “who wrote this?” Sometimes that “who” is out of disgust as in, “EWWW wrote this???” Though when it’s good, sometimes that “who” is out of awed admiration as in, “WAHOO wrote this?!!!” Hopefully it was the latter for you, because that writing on the choir was beautiful and dead-on.

  3. ok, i’m all in but using my special purpose to read both of you daily and comment. that’s all i can commit to which speaks volumes about the laundry at my house…

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