An Off-Key Addition to the Choir

I can’t sing. Not reliably. Sometimes I have thought it was my imagination… but generally, down deep, I’ve been pretty sure this is right.

I love to sing, and I do it, but when I least expect it an awkward squeak or a loud note that doesn’t blend quite right with those around me comes out.

I was in the church choir back at First Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia when I was young. And I bow down and kiss the feet of the choir director, Herb Archer, who never told me how bad I was. He let me love being there, part of something that felt special and important. Yes, Mr. Archer avoided outing me. Or perhaps giving birth to three children or having my hair turn grey changed me from a proficient singer to, well, sounding pretty bad.

A few months ago I was with a group of folks out in Seattle. We had been part of a nine-month cohort together in a class and had become close. On our last day, we sat around singing, with a few of the super-talented ones leading the way with vocals and guitars. Entranced by the moment and by the poignancy of our together ending, I whipped out my cellphone and hit “record,” capturing 14 minutes of our spontaneity and laughter.

The recording makes me happy. I’ve listened to it many times. But the truth is that I was tempted to delete it when I heard my own voice, my way-off-key voice. I stick out. Even my own ear can tell that something’s not blending, somebody’s not blending, and that somebody is ME.

The sound of my own voice threatened to ruin the entire memory for me. And I got past it.

Let’s celebrate. Yes, for me. But also for the times you have done that… for the times when you let your imperfect self show up and have fun without judging or criticizing, shrinking back, or feeling tempted to stay home.

The recording makes me smile. I love the beautiful voices. And I love my own… mostly because it reminds me that I don’t have to be good at everything (or actually anything) to be lovable.

And because it reminds me that I was having a blast with some friends who let me know that they loved me and who gave me the privilege of knowing and loving them.

Hearing the recording reminds me that it’s perfectly okay to show up as me, even “as is.” Particularly “as is.”

I’m positive now that I sing off-key. But I still contribute something really unique and irreplaceable.

And you do too.

Sing out.