Shed a little light.

“That’s why people love NPR. Stories are the only way we connect with history. We connect with life when we hear real stories.” -Mom

Sometimes dear old mom gets it exactly right. We were talking today about SO THERE I WAS… The storytelling series Jeff Houghton and I started hosting this fall at Q Enoteca on Commercial Street. We based (borrowed, stealed) the idea on The Moth in NYC, a podcast we both loved that features real people telling real stories from their lives.

So There I Was

This weekend, in honor of MLK Jr. Day, and because Springfield could use a little more honest dialogue about the subject, the theme for stories is RACE.

So here’s me: I grew up in a tiny town in Southwest Missouri, and didn’t encounter diversity in any real way until high school and beyond. While I have thoughts & opinions about race, I don’t really have good stories to tell. I’m just as content–if not more so–to listen to other people tell stories.
But last night I did think of this:

When I was in 6th grade, my parents had a 2-CD greatest hits of James Taylor. And I loved it.

Now see, in middle school I was a little bit introspective and a lot nerdy and very much an old soul. So I LOVED me some James Taylor.
I have a vivid recollection of sitting in 6th grade study hall, handwriting the lyrics to “Sweet Baby James” in a spiral notebook. I didn’t completely understand it (a fact I never would have admitted at the time, of course), but the words struck a chord with me of love, loss, loneliness and the big, big world.

I remember having strong feelings about another song, “Shed a Little Light”, which opened with this powerful a cappella moment that was like poetry sung out loud.

Let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King
and recognize that there are ties between us
all men and women, living on the Earth.
Ties of hope and love / sister and brotherhood…
We are bound together / by the task that stands before us
And the road that lies ahead / we are bound and we are bound.

Listening to this song when I was thirteen made me feel like my heart had expanded. Like I wanted to be a part of pointing out and strengthening the “ties of hope and love” in life. Of helping everyone (including myself) feel more love and less loss or loneliness.

I felt these same heart-expanding feelings at So There I Was last night. I maybe can’t relate to every story about race, but I can open my heart to them. I can try to understand. And I can, as our final storyteller put it, “turn on the light of social justice” every chance I get.

Amen & amen.