Saturday, September 01, 2007

Fear No Weevil

Yes Virginia, there is a silver lining!

Down South, in the town of Enterprise, Alabama, a statue was dedicated in 1919 to the the Boll Weevil, the scourge of the cotton farmer. Back in the beginning of the 20th century, many areas relied solely on the cultivation of cotton. When the Boll Weevil came up from Mexico via Texas, it destroyed much of those cotton crops. It forced farmers away from the monoculture of King Cotton, and they diversified and prospered. The city fathers of Enterprise honored the Boll Weevil, and the statue itself has a long, bizarre history. But I'm not here to talk about the Boll Weevil.

For the last 15 years, I have played bass in a small intimate worship community, we've referred to as "The Early Service." Early, because we started at the ungodly hour of 8:30 AM! During that time I have been fortunate enough to evolve and improve my skills, and have shared music making with a long revolving list of wonderful, talented people. But, one doesn't have to walk very far down the road of old clich├ęs to find "All good things must end someday."

For a variety of reasons (we won't go into it, remember the 'silver lining' focus here?) we've been on hiatus the last three summers, and I don't think I'll be rejoining whatever it is that's scheduled in the Early Service's place later this month. Certainly there's lots of pain, sadness, and sometimes anger, but let's get back to that silver lining, OK?

With some time on our hands during the last few summers, we have played in other churches on Sundays, and also at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco. Laguna Honda is the hospital of last resort for many people, and we have been honored to play there. Sometimes there are 50 or more residents, most in wheelchairs, and they really appreciate what we do. It really puts things in perspective for us. Sometimes when we play John Lennon's "Imagine," it really hits me when we do the last verse:

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
Usually when you hear the first line of that verse, it resonates in some sort of intellectual way, but here we are, playing for the residents, many of whom literally have nothing. It's been an honor to play there.

Another thing we didn't used to do 'in the good old days' was play with Martha. Martha has always been an excellent piano player and musician, who can actually read those funny little black dots and staff lines, as well as work off the 'cheat sheets,' and helps me figure out the 'idiot chords' for songs, but hasn't been asked to help out in the past at church. Now we get to rehearse and play together, and that's what I call a silver lining.

So, what do I usually do in a case like this? What else; quote some T. S. Eliot that seems appropriate to the occasion:

Fare forward, travellers! not escaping from the past
Into different lives, or into any future;
You are not the same people who left that station
Or who will arrive at any terminus,
While the narrowing rails slide together behind you;
And on the deck of the drumming liner
Watching the furrow that widens behind you,
You shall not think 'the past is finished'
Or 'the future is before us'.


macpict said...

This is a wonderful sharing, Geoff! I understand how you feel honored to be able to share your music with the residents at Laguna Honda. Before my husband died, we were part of music group that did a once per month musical service at a Fremont convalescent hospital. We did it for four and a half years, which I'm given to understand is unusual for groups of this type, and that doing it once a month was unusual, too. We also played for our church regularly and many of us were involved in the Cursillo movement, too, providing music for the retreat weekends. In any case, the convalescent hospital was far and away my favorite venue. The leader of the group ran the service, we had a poet who often penned her own verse to share with the residents, we brought treats for them, and played a TON of music. When I started I was pretty shy and stood behind the music stand. As we progressed, I started coming out to the center of the room, serenading the residents in a wonderful, joyful singing, strumming, and clapping extravaganza. The room really got to rockin'! Our kids came frequently and the residents loved that, as you can imagine. Sometimes we would arrive to find a resident not among us, which was always a very sad event. The residents had their families in with them, as well, and the activity room we used became too small quickly.

It WAS an honor, but one that ended. Two members of our group moved away, the leader stepped down as leader due to burn-out (people really need to rotate ministries) and nobody stepped up to participate. Scott and I were discussing whether or not to continue, as well, when he suddenly died from a massive heart attack. So our group ended rather abruptly.

I often think of the residents and what their reaction must have been. This ministry was the high point of my church experience, and I am very lucky to have been able to participate.

Now my path has led me to new adventures. I have retained some friendships from the group, and I carry the experience and love in my heart, hoping that I can find ways to serve in the future that will be equally as meaningful to all concerned.

Mary Beth

Anonymous said...

Jimmy Buffet:

"Oh, yesterdays are over my shoulder,
So I can't look back for too long.
There's just too much to see waiting in front of me,
And I know that I just can't go wrong."