My alarm goes off. Sunday morning, it is still dark, very dark. I check the temperature: four degrees. “Hmmm, how small will the choir be today, Lord?”
It is January 15 and tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. For the first time in our choir’s history we have been asked to help a church remember this God-loving man.
I’ll be honest; I hesitated before saying “yes” knowing it was a three-day weekend, and three day-weekends are lovely without extra work. But how could our kids and teens be denied a chance to honor a man who helped pave a way for them based on his understanding of Scripture as a blueprint for a world of equality and peace?
The van is so cold that the doors won’t open. I warm the key hole with my bare hand and finally get in. The van wheezes on the way to collect our kids. Other staff are glimpsed weaving through the now-sunny, crunchy streets of the West Side.
Keesa* first. I gently beep, then wait, wondering if she’s up, who got her ready, will she be coming? The door opens and smiling Keesa walks out. We sit quietly while making our way to the next stop. “What’s in the bag, I ask?” “Oh, my singing shoes.” Now I’m glad to be up.
Next stop. Taran* comes out dressed to the hilt. I think about the early morning effort she put into herself. She looks beautiful and ready to sing.
It is a large church, a few minutes away and near the “street-line” separating two very different neighborhoods: the “haves” and “have nots”. This is not lost to me on this day.
Kids gather. We are not small. Four chilling degrees did not stop twenty plus kids and teens from paying homage. We warm our voices in a stubbornly cold old sanctuary. The service begins. A sanctuary built for five hundred holds twenty-five. A pastor with a heart for justice pays no mind to the empty rows–his hope for this service is so real that they may as well be filled.
We sing old civil rights songs; the scattered twenty-five pay attention. The pastor sits, head bowed.
There is brightness through the stained glass windows and on Keesa’s feet. Her “singing shoes” catch my eye. They are bright yellow with a wedge heel, a little floppy-big, but they sing. They sing cheerily to a chilly room, they sing defiantly to “odds stacked way against her”, they sing purposefully for two prophet-men–Jesus and Martin–who gave their lives for what they believed in.
I bow my head now, as I know I am seeing a true “Profile of Peace.”
* Not their real names.