by Carolyn Sowinski
March 5, 2014

Several things have come together in my life with the theme of listening, so I thought I would share my thoughts with you. The first from a sermon; the second from a concert.

Questions and statements from a recent sermon on Transfiguration Sunday included:

  • What beautiful things do we miss because of stress, fears, or busy schedules?
  • Are we quick to speak, but slow to listen?
  • When we listen to Jesus and to each other we can be transformed.

In past posts I have shared about my love of music. I have sung in choirs for more than 45 years–beginning in a church children’s choir. I love to share the beauty of the music and the inspiring texts–based on scripture, liturgy/mass, and poetry–in church and community choirs and as a soloist. As I have grown in my faith I have also grown in my awareness of connecting my music with the listening audience. Sometimes that connection is emotional; sometimes, spiritual. I credit choir conductors with stressing this important connection and being aware of this at each concert. We remember that at each concert there will be someone who has never heard the words or music before–being open to a transformation. Or there will be someone who faces death soon and that this music will be the last he hears–experiencing comfort and peace in his final days.

To make this connection with the audience, I pray before each time I sing–at concerts, Sunday anthems, solos at weddings and funerals. I pray that the words I share or that the choir presents will touch at least one person in the congregation or audience. I pray that the words and music will help one person connect or reconnect with God. I pray that one person is open to listening.

Sometimes I learn that my prayers were answered.

Last week I sang two songs at my congregation’s annual concert which benefits local housing and disaster response needs. Most of the music at this concert is secular–it gives singers an opportunity to move outside of our usual religious anthems, solos, etc. What a treat it was to sing a ballad from World War II: “There’ll be Bluebirds Over the White Cliffs of Dover”. This song has a strong emotional connection to people who lived through the war, so I was not surprised when an audience member talked with me after the concert. He shared a very personal story.

Several years ago, when his elderly mother was near death, this man helped care for her. She was blind and hard of hearing, The mother and son held hands as she sang this song, a prominent memory from her years as a young adult during the war. There were tears and comfort as they shared this moment together.

This song has connected people, generations, and events. First, the song connected me to the gentleman–we had never met before and may never meet again. But he listened and recognized the song. And he took the time to find me and talk with me. Second, the song connected the man with his mother. As he listened to the music his thoughts took him back to the time he spent with her in her final weeks. Third, this song connected to the spirit of a woman who had lived in a war weary world; the song gave listeners hope. Our world continues to experience war–with families waiting and hoping for loved ones to return home. Some return home whole; some return injured; some return in coffins.

I’ll never forget the people I met
Braving those angry skies

I remember well as the shadows fell
The light of hope in their eyes.

And though I’m far away
I still can hear them say
Thumbs up…
But when the dawn comes up

There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Just you wait and see.

There’ll be love and laughter
And peace ever after

When the world is free.

The shepherd will tend his sheep
The valley will bloom again
And Jimmy will go to sleep
In his own little room again.

There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover

Just you wait and see.

After this experience of singing the song and the conversation after the concert, two people have been transformed. Jesus was acting to benefit each of us–opening our hearts to each other, even though we were strangers. It was an emotional moment for both of us, with tears in our eyes, as we listened to each other. The man was filled with comforting memories; I realized that my prayer had been answered.

Learn more about Gifts of Hope and how each of us can bring hope to others.