Friday, June 10, 2011

East Asia: a dimly lit soccer field

First things first - some of us almost didn't arrive. All but 3 members of our team tumbled out of their taxis and risked their lives cross the every-man-for-himself street, to soon thereafter be greeted by mostly-shy college students.

But where is that other car? Our dear Runner attentively waited for them, while we made our way to the soccer field, where we awkwardly gathered in a circle, forgetting for a moment how to make a circle, and introduce ourselves, the Americans.

Once into smaller groups, with the purpose of practicing English by asking questions of each other, I'd drawn a few aspiring musicians to my group, awed to be sitting by a "professional musician" (which is a. not me and b. extremely kind and flattering of them). "Can you play the first song you ever wrote?" Hemming and hawing ensued, followed by a few phone calls, a mad dash to a dorm room, and next thing we all know, a guitar's magically appeared, with a little circle of music happening on this now-dark soccer field.

"Every day, every day, I want to be more like you;
but every time, every time, my plans fall through."

Well-received. And in the meantime, I'm shaking off the time-travel I just did to my sophomore year of high school, when that song was written.

a student who really loved practicing English

But I'd rather sing about story. So, I asked if I could be allowed to play just one more, a song about songs. "This one," I told them, "is about all the stories I've written songs about, ones from long ago, ones about people I may not even talk to much anymore. But they aren't useless; those stories aren't irrelevant. They've made me who I am."

I remember every name and every face
and every road trip that we ever made.
And I count every single one as my blessing
'cause I know my life never went unlived.

No, they don't break me, they don't break me anymore...
they just make me... who I am.

["Who I Am," by AWP]

What I didn't tell them was that some of those songs, especially some of the most painful, were often very difficult to sing at one time in my life. But I wrote them anyway, sang them anyway. They were meant to be shared and offer something to the listener, maybe someone who understood how it felt to be in that story (or maybe someone who only understood after having heard the song, and needed those very words to bring them to understanding).

And I watched in the circle as those words imparted some understanding. In some hearts, memories were stirred, stories of their own. I saw it; I know it was there.

We owe them - all of them - the sharing of stories. And one day, they won't break us anymore.

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