When I was five or six, my family joined a small group who were looking to start a new church on the south side of town. I don’t remember much about the earliest stages but I do remember the years we spent meeting in a shopping centre. First it was the gym, and we had to cover the wall of mirrors with paper and I remember my Sunday school teacher telling us not to play on the weight benches. Sometimes the children got to decorate the paper, which was fun. Later, one of the buildings in the centre became available and we leased it for ourselves. Inside, we had a grand piano. I don’t remember how we got it, but we were proud of it, and proud of the lady who played it so well. We did love to sing.
My mother said my voice was clear and pure, and she loved to hear it. I knew she was right, so I sang louder. Still, there weren’t many others who seemed to notice my vocal quality. I knew they would love it as soon as they heard it, but even with extra volume my voice only blended in with the congregation. Eventually, I formed a plan that would help everyone appreciate my talents: I decided to hold notes just a little longer than everyone else, as a way to give myself a momentary solo, as a way to give everyone else the chance to notice and appreciate the purity of my voice.
I remember the first Sunday I launched my helpful initiative. I remember holding the notes out longer, after everyone else had dropped them, and thinking about the people I knew way up on the front row and how much they must be enjoying the sound and how they would probably mention it to me with thankfulness after the service. As it turned out, I didn’t even have to wait until after the service for someone to mention it to me: my mother noticed, and she leaned down to whisper in my ear. She—the woman who loved my voice—said “Seth, you’re holding the notes too long”.
Too long. That’s all she said about it. My mother did not approve of my self-appointed solos. All of a sudden, I was embarrassed. What if the people on the front row didn’t approve of my solos, either? Probably they didn’t!
After that day, I stayed within the boundaries of the music. I did join the children’s choir at the church, and then the youth choir, and there were times when I even got to sing solos, but most of the time I just did my best to blend my voice in with the others. I learned that genuine thankfulness and unity expressed through many voices blended together can be more beautiful than personal talent. In a world of self-promotion and individualism, it’s good to remember that there are times when blending is far better than being noticed.