Friday, April 8, 2011

Singing that Lifted a Spirit on the Train

It had been one of those awful days. I can’t remember the specifics now, but I remember the rotten feeling in my gut. Life, job, the city, everything had been getting me down. I was late to some kind of appointment I think – one more thing that had gone wrong. The subway was crowded,it was a long ride and I knew I wouldn’t get a seat. I leaned against the door and tried to block out the world.

But the world jabbed its way in. I heard a voice – someone singing a song I didn’t know. I couldn’t make out the words, but I didn’t really want to. I was annoyed, and just not in the mood to try and ignore another subway performer and hope they didn’t bump into me while walking down the aisle asking for donations. Why was I here in this city? Why wasn’t I living somewhere where a car and a decent apartment weren’t reserved for people with incomes well into the six figures? Why was I here on a noisy, dirty, two-dollar ride trying to ignore another crazy person invading the personal bubble I had so painstakingly crafted for myself just for times like these? Then a dozen more voices joined the first and it was the most beautiful thing I have ever heard.

They were some kind of Church, or maybe high school choir practicing. And they were really, really good. The song turned out to be “He Knows My Name” – a gospel song whose lyrics seem to feature a really creepy stalker Jesus (the first two lines of the chorus are “he knows my name, he knows my every move).” I’ve downloaded different version of the song, but none have meant anything to me – by itself the song is kind of saccharine. It was the people, and the moment.

Even though I was late, I left the train one stop after I should have, just so I could listen to the last verse. I knew in my head that the problems had not gone away, but somehow everything was OK now. I thought it appropriate that the song was a gospel. I’ve never been religious, but I’ve always had faith in the city. And just like how a priest looks for signs of faith when he has doubts, the city has always had a way of restoring my faith when I felt like it was being tested. Nowhere else could I have had that moment – especially not driving along the highway in some town with cheap parking and people who don’t sing in public.


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