Some of those childish dreams and cringing humiliations of our past need to be pulled out and gently chuckled over. It helps exorcise them. This particularly mortifying bogie has now been relegated to a manageable discomfiture. But youthful foolishness can bear the fruit of adult insight.
A song, I realized that fateful night, wasn’t going to change the world. At least not via me. I couldn’t sing, for Pete’s sake. Why hadn’t anyone told me? I couldn’t play guitar. (Actually several people had told me this, but I assumed they just hadn’t heard me at my most soulful.) I had bullied my friend into supporting a naive and humiliating venture in futility. Worse, people had witnessed it. People I didn’t know.
It would be years—decades—before I began to comprehend the hopeless mess we humans are, the mess we’ve made of the world, and the nastiness we inflict on each other. Nothing we could generate from inside our grimy broken selves, no matter how pretty and sincere, could change ugliness and evil. We require something—SomeOne—outside of us.
Once we realize that, we needn’t feel frustration about our inability to change the entire world. We can, however, change the parts of it in which we live and move and have our being.
We work at being good friends, like Nan.
We do our best, like my Calvinette leaders, to guide silly, giggling pre-pubescent girls with love and grace.
We enjoy beauty and truth, because by God’s common and uncommon grace, it is everywhere.
God made the music of the spheres to begin with, He keeps the song going in spite of raspy voices and broken strings, and He’ll make the song new and perfect someday. He just requires that we hum along faithfully in our own spheres, whatever their size and scope.
As for my preteen self? Did I wallow in self-pity? Of course. For at least 36 hours. But there was more Simon and Garfunkel to enjoy, some Montego Bay and Mungo Jerry, and a glorious first crush on David Cassidy. Changing the world could wait. My pillow transformed into Keith Partridge each night and I covered him with chaste, closed-mouth kisses. I was becoming typical. My parents breathed a sigh of relief.
Late that year, I misplaced my little yellow transistor radio. Then I ran out of requisite-size battery. Finally, my father remembered to buy a pack of 9 volts and my little radio was ready to rumble. Maybe, I hoped, maybe ‘I Think I Love You’ will be the first song I hear. I tuned to WCFL, locked my bedroom door and turned up the volume.
For the first time, singing only for me, Neil Diamond’s ‘He Ain’t Heavy…He’s My Brother’ crooned its way through my little transistor and into my heart.
The next day I dusted off my old string of love beads and wrote a fan letter to the Peace Corps.