I read recently in the book, Faith-rooted Organizing, Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World by Alexia Salvatierra and Peter Heltzel, a really great story. I am privileged to have Alexia as a professor this semester and I have learned so much from her! Not just about organizing, but about faith and life and it has been one of my favorite classes.
In her book she shares this:
In several regions in Africa, when a woman is pregnant, she must gather in the forest with other mothers and members of the community to discern the song of her baby. They all sing the song while she is giving birth so that the baby will be born well. When that baby grows up and begins their education or their career, or at any other important moments of life, they remember and sing their song. When they find their life partner, they sing a duet. When they are dying, the whole community sings their song. When a person has committed a crime, they also gather the community, place the offender in the middle and sing them their song to remind them of who they are.
I just think this is one of the coolest things. My first response to this was, wow, what an illustration of community! This is what the Kingdom should be about. Not only do others prioritize helping a mother discern the song of her child, but this community remembers this specific child’s song…they remember who he/she is. They call him or her back to who they are.
How affirming that must be for someone. For so many people to care for you and to sing your song in celebration and in death, to care enough that even if you commit a crime…they gather to sing it to you, as a reminder. When I first read this I thought it was going to say they bring the offender in the middle and take away their song or strip away their rights (this shows how ingrained our penal and judicial system is in my head), but rather, they gather the community, place the offender in the middle and sing them their song to remind them of who they are. WOW. What grace, what a way to approach someone with dignity even if it may not be “deserved”. It’s not letting the person off the hook or absolving responsibility, they’re not backing away, but rather confronting and calling them back to who they know they really are. It’s beautiful.
This is one of the most beautiful things I’ve read recently and I realized that although a literal song may not have been discerned over me when I was born, I still have a song. We all do. We all were uniquely created to be who we are, whether we’re fully and wholly that person yet or not. I am so fortunate to have people in my life who sing my song with me in celebration and who remind me who I am.
My hope and prayer is that I can do that for others too…that we would all do that for each other. That we realize the importance of knowing others’ song…that we’re not afraid to sing that song to them, to remind them of who they are. The world would be a better place if we all recognized that each and every person has a song. Sometimes people just need to be reminded of who they are and that everyone’s lives matter and that everyone has a song.