While though the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
Fifty years ago this month, my mother watched news coverage of the war zone her hometown had become. My grandmother, in her 70s, still lived alone in the same house there on Cruse Street. Detroit was burning — with arson fires, July heat, and years of anger stoked by injustice and fear. Mom was hours away in Indianapolis with a 6-month-old baby (me), and I don’t know how long it took before she knew Grandma Flossie and the rest of our family and friends were safe in a city that suddenly and frighteningly wasn’t theirs.
Only later did Mom learn that while the worst of the action was happening outside her door, Flossie played hymn after hymn on the piano, singing at the top of her lungs.
Her African American next door neighbors, who were hiding under their beds, could hear it.
Half a century later, I can see it — a bright bubble of protective energy around Flossie and the piano, expanding with every note to surround her modest brick house and those nearby.
We humans have always known the power of sound and song to heal and unify. Whether it’s a lullaby to a child, a protest song belted through tears, or a hymn or patriotic song sung by many voices in unison, music raises our vibration and creates a powerful energy around us. Does it stop bullets or put out fires? No. But it sure can change the climate that produces and responds to bullets and fires.
That’s why, instead of riot footage, I chose Enya’s “How Can I Keep from Singing?” for this post. I don’t know if this was one of the hymns my grandmother offered up to God and the world at large during these trying days … but as I listen to the lyrics, I think it fits.
May we, in today’s tumult and strife, hear and join in that “real, though far-off hymn” — loud enough for the neighbors to hear.