I had a unique experience yesterday here in Southbury, CT, one that I’m still unpacking.
Bernice and I were invited to lead the morning service at Mattatuck UU Society yesterday morning, and then to share a few songs in the afternoon at Justice Southbury, a weekly vigil that’s been held at a public park for now 151 consecutive Sundays. We arrived at the park as the morning’s dreary gray clouds were parting, and after some opening words from organizers and a guest speaker who was there to raise awareness about autism advocacy, Bernice and I brought our songs and selves to the microphone.
The place where we were gathered is next to a very busy intersection. As Bernice and I sang our first song, Bernice’s ‘Winds of Change‘, a man in a large pickup truck stopped at the traffic light rolled his window down and cupped his hands to his mouth in order to amplify the words he was shouting at us, calling us names that I will not repeat here, giving full volume to what I can only describe as his disgust with what we were doing.
No more us and no more them, Bernice sang as I thundered along with the frame drum. And still he shouted at us. Every voice must still be heard, she sang, and still he roared, and we roared back with the song – but not in anger, but in sadness about the loss of connection, and also confusion, wanting to understand where he was coming from.
The light eventually turned green and then he was gone.
A few moments later, I stood with my guitar and sang: We sing for these times / we cry for these times / when our hearts break together / for a world that we all share / we sing for these times / we cry for these times / and we hope for something better / for a world that could be as beautiful as we dare / yes we sing for these times.
I wrote that song right after last year’s tragedy in Uvalde, TX, and I realize now that I also wrote it for moments like these, when I wish I could download all the compassion and love and concern in my heart directly into the hearts and minds of everyone, especially folks like the one shouting at us from his truck.
It was startling and heartbreaking to have some shouting at us as we sang songs that, for us, are all about bringing every single person into the circle of connection and community, including – and especially – folks who see things very differently, sometimes very painfully differently.
He didn’t silence us, and I’m sure we didn’t silence him. And that’s not the point. The folks who have stood out there, in wind and rain and snow and sun, for 151 Sundays in a row are raising voices that are often difficult and painful to hear. And how can we solve problems together until we first hear each other out?
No more us and no more them. May it be so.