CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©
I chatted with legendary US Congressman Lee Hamilton yesterday afternoon. During his 34 years representing Indiana’s 9th Congressional District, he was probably the most universally respected member of the US Congress, especially for his level-headed approach and his expertise on international affairs and national security. Now retired, he continues to serve as an advisor to many government agencies, and as the Director of The Indiana Center on Representative Government at Indiana University.
I ran into Lee after the “Sylvia and Friends” concert to raise money for the Shalom Center, which serves Bloomington’s homeless community. Sylvia is another IU icon, recently retired from the Jacobs School of Music, following a spectacular performing and recording career in opera and Broadway musicals. This was her 10th year doing the concert, which always includes Charles Webb, the retired dean of the Jacobs School, who has been the organist at First United Methodist Church, where the concert was held, for an astounding 58 years, and another 7 or 8 musical friends, at all stages of their professional careers, some retired, some just starting.
That list of pianists and guitarists and singers includes Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, Lee’s nephew. The play list was mostly Leonard Bernstein, who was a long-time friend of Charles Webb and IU’s school of music, but, naturally, the mayor was requested to sing Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust.” Lee laughed when I noted that Bloomington is the kind of place where even the mayor sings. [Quite professionally, by the way]
No one sings like Sylvia, though. A consummate performer. And human being. She has retired early to spend full-time in service to others, ministering directly and via agencies to the homeless and abused among us. We won’t lose her musical voice entirely, of course, but we shall be better because of her advocacy voice on behalf of those who most need a song in the dark.
What appeals to me most about Sylvia, though, is that we are both cancer survivors who say, along with many others, that cancer is the best thing that ever happened to us. Cancer gave us a new view of life, and a new song to sing. So I sit here this morning, humming my life songs as I go, ready to face a new day with a new song.
An event like yesterday afternoon works as a reset for me, because it contains all the elements that make life worthwhile—an attempt to help those who need it, real human beings who make the world better by their service and their presence, and music.
Being in the presence of Lee and Sylvia and the mayor and all the other folks there, in that beautiful church, with the music of Hoagy and Lennie, raising money for the homeless… all that is great. But it’s not necessary. All each of us has to do is be a real human who tries to make the world a better place, while singing a song.
I tweet once in a great while as yooper1721.
Spoiler Alert: If you have read this column in the last 3 months, all that follows is old news:
My book, NOW THAT I HAVE CANCER I AM WHOLE: Reflections on Life and Healing for Cancer Patients and Those Who Love Them, is published by AndrewsMcMeel. It is available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, etc. in hardback, paperback, audio, Japanese, and Czech.
I stopped writing this column for a while, for several reasons. It wasn’t until I had quit, though, that I knew this reason: I did not want to be responsible for wasting your time. If I write for others, I have to think about whether it’s worthwhile for you to read. If I write only for myself, it’s caveat emptor. If you choose to read something I have written, but I have not advertised it, not asked you to read it, and it’s poorly constructed navel-gazing drivel, well, it’s your own fault. Still, I apologize if you have to ask yourself, “Why did I waste time reading this?”
Katie Kennedy is the rising star in YA lit. [She is also our daughter.] She is published by Bloomsbury, which also publishes lesser authors, like JK Rowling. Her new book, What Goes Up, came out July 18. It’s published in paper, audio, and electronic, and available from B&N, Amazon, Powell’s, etc.
Speaking of writing, my most recent book, VETS, about four homeless and handicapped Iraqistan veterans, is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BOKO, Powell’s, etc. It’s published by Black Opal Books.
I started this blog several years ago, when we followed the grandchildren to the “place of winter,” Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP]. I put that in the sub-title, Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter, where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.] The grandchildren, though, are grown up, so in May, 2015 we moved “home,” to Bloomington, IN, where we met and married. It’s not a “place of winter,” but we are still in winter years of the life cycle, so I am still trying to understand what it means to be a follower of Christ in winter…