An Unexpected Song

Globe Room

Have you ever been a trendsetter who didn’t even know you were setting a trend? Or a key driving force behind a movement that was just something you were doing because it was fun? Sometimes fire catches when we are just playing with our sparklers for no other reason than they are pretty and bring us joy. In fact, I believe some of the best movements are started that way: unintentionally.

On Tuesday this week, Ashley and I played hookie from work to take a spontaneous road trip to our alma mater. Okay, it wasn’t really hookie. We logged our vacation time and told our bosses. And it was only about a 2 hour drive, so it wasn’t much of a road trip. And it’s possible we planned it about a week in advance, so perhaps it wasn’t entirely spontaneous. But still. We were adventurous!

Anyway, it was seriously the perfect day. We got to campus in the late afternoon as warm, golden rays of sunlight sifted through the trees. The weather couldn’t have been better – sunny and 75 – and it was glorious to stroll through the sprawling courtyards and relive our happy memories there.

We took a university bus across campus as though going to classes, ate at one of our favorite college sandwich joints, visited a couple of our favorite bookstores and coffee shops, and we finally tried strawberry tarts at a famous upscale restaurant that was way outside of our budgets during our college years.

The entire day was magical (and we hope to make it a quarterly tradition!), but my favorite part of the day was completely unexpected. There is a building in the center of campus – the Memorial Center – that serves as something of a student union or center for student activities. Within the Memorial Center is a room called the Globe Room, where the mahogany walls are lined with bookshelves, and the hardwood floors are covered in rich rugs of emerald, burgundy and midnight blue. Historical flags hang from the ceiling, and two gemstone globes serve as centerpieces surrounded by rich leather couches where students sit studying.

Everything about the Globe Room makes me feel like I am home; I have found my personal heaven on earth. Each time I enter, I breathe deeply, taking in the scents of leather and old books before giving a happy sigh. The Globe Room also houses a grand piano in one corner of the room, and during my days at university, various students would occasionally walk in, play a few soothing classical pieces (think “Moonlight Sonata” or “Clair de Lune”); then step out again, leaving the rest of us to our books and studies.

On Tuesday when Ashley and I walked into the Globe Room, a young man sat at the piano playing a soothing melody. He was clearly talented – the kind of person who can play piano without sheet music; the kind of person who can play brilliantly by ear.

Ashley and I sat down in two plush chairs, and I closed my eyes to better take in the sounds and smells of my favorite room on campus. I smiled to myself as I recognized the tune the pianist transitioned into. Then I was surprised to hear his low voice quietly singing along. I found myself harmonizing to his melody line under my breath. I hadn’t realized I knew the words to the song, but I did.

The pianist looked up, hearing my harmony drifting over to him, and he started to sing louder. So I smiled, apologized to Ashley (who occasionally is made to feel uncomfortable by my boldness), and walked over to the piano, where the man continued playing. We crescendoed together until we were each singing our parts at full volume. I’d never heard anyone sing along to the grand piano in the Globe Room before, but it was exhilarating, and I smiled to myself as I looked around at the old, familiar surroundings.

The music faded out, and the pianist (Daniel, I learned later) transitioned smoothly into yet another song. As he played the opening chords, I was astonished to recognize it as a Christian worship song: “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons & Daughters. I let him sing the first few lines solo; then I softly came in with gentle harmony for the last few lines of the first verse.

As Daniel and I grew into the chorus, a young man walking past the Globe Room paused in the hallway and leaned in, listening. Near the end of the first chorus, another person stood from one of the couches and walked over to the piano, singing the words along with us. And then we were joined by another. And another.

My heart felt full, looking around at my brothers and sisters in Christ – people I’d never met before; people I didn’t even know. But even without knowing each other’s names, we started a movement in the Globe Room. Daniel unintentionally started a worship service in the heart of a public, state university.

The whole experience was beautiful and awe-inspiring, and I didn’t even realize what was happening until it was almost over. It was otherworldly worshiping together with complete strangers, sharing a spiritual bond as we united in Christ, praising our King without regard for doctrinal or denominational differences. My prayer is that we were not the only ones who sensed it; the supernatural force – the Holy Spirit – that permeated the Globe Room that afternoon. God truly is able to do more than we could ever ask or imagine, and this experience is one I will not soon forget.

Authentically Aurora

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Moments – Part III

PianoBy the time our newest alto had claimed her victory in Apples to Apples, the night was growing late, and people soon began to filter out. I moved to the sink to start washing dishes while others collected discarded napkins and bottles to help me clean up.

Two by two, acquaintances-turned-friends departed until only Michael and our newest alto remained. Michael had settled himself at my keyboard, playing the piano softly while I washed dishes and the other girl listened to a voicemail on her phone. My heart skipped a beat, wondering why Michael was lingering, but I pushed down my racing thoughts and focused on being in the moment, enjoying the peaceful harmonies emanating from my keyboard.

The other girl finished with her voice message, looked around as though surprised to see everyone else gone, and bid goodnight to Michael and me, seeming to think nothing of leaving the two of us alone together. I, on the other hand, thought lots of things about leaving the two of us alone together. But I again coached myself to be present, not overthinking or over-analyzing but just enjoying the surprising turn of events. There are three things that soothe me more than anything else in the world: singing worship music, having my mom brush my hair, and listening to a talented pianist at his craft.

I leaned on my kitchen counter, peering over Michael’s shoulder as his fingers played across the black and white keys. “What are you playing?” I asked.

“‘For All We Know,'” he told me, continuing an arpeggiated chord progression. When I shook my head, indicating that I wasn’t familiar with it, he added, “It’s a song by The Carpenters.”

“Oh! I think my mom used to listen to them.” I recognized the name of the group but also knew they were before my time. “Did you listen to a lot of oldies growing up?”

He nodded, and we continued talking about music for a while before moving on to visual art. Michael asked to see some of my paintings, so I got some out of a back closet to show him. When I pulled my rendition of “Red Poppy” from a top shelf where it had been collecting dust, he exclaimed, “Oh! Georgia O’Keeffe!”

I glanced at him in astonishment. “Michael! I am so impressed by you! How did you know that?” He just shrugged, looking pleased.

After reviewing my paintings, I also pulled out a sketchbook and flipped through it with him, pointing out a few of my favorites – a self-portrait I did a few years ago as well as a portrait of my late grandfather I sketched more recently.

“You are so talented,” he breathed quietly, still looking intently at my sketches.

“So are you,” I said, smiling up at him as he bent over my artwork.

“Thanks.” We smiled shyly at each other for a moment before Michael broke the silence, clearing his throat. “Well, I should let you get to bed.”

We moved toward my front door, and I stepped forward to hug him goodnight. Michael had hung his rarely-worn glasses from his top button, and he pulled them from his chest just before our bodies met so that I could rest against him. We didn’t hug for long, having only ever hugged once before, but I was still smiling well after he left.

I am only now looking up the lyrics to “For All We Know.” And they are perfect.

Love, look at the two of us
Strangers in many ways
Let’s take a lifetime to say
“I knew you well”
For only time will tell us so
And love may grow
For all we know.

Authentically Aurora