Lessons Mom Taught: "Shouting With A Whisper"

I love music!

The skill of a great musician, honed over time, becomes a pursuit of excellence immersed in hours and hours and days and weeks and years of relating so well with your instrument and so invested in the music that it becomes a part of you.

Recently, I’ve had the great opportunity to sit and listen to concert pianists, young artists that find themselves still amid their high school education. If only I could play with that ferocity, beauty and control. The music – the keyboard – the touch of flesh to ivory – it all becomes so indiscernible as the very atmosphere seems to take on a quality of oneness and harmony and melody intertwined to express something beautiful in a moment in time.

However, that kind of skill did not happen overnight. This is the stuff of early mornings, after school, late evenings and time and time again practicing, playing, studying, and practicing again.

I’ve played guitar for quite a few years now. Typically, I would practice into the early hours of the morning. Spending hours playing with other musicians to collaborate and joining in the creative composition was simply part of life.  Now, the busyness of life has crept in and I’ve clearly misplaced the finesse of playing as I used to. Though I never was a concert guitarist – I developed several good habits that resulted in both consistent and decent music.  However, breaking the habit of playing daily has taken its toll.

I also love to sing. I loved singing with my mom, who loved singing as well.  I can almost hear her now, sputtering, buzzing and enunciating those silly vocal exercises that improve one’s range, pitch and diction.  “Spooney, spooney, spooney…la, la, la, and on and on.  I do miss hearing those warm ups.

In her later years, when she struggled with her vision and couldn’t see the words in the hymnal at church, I would softly whisper the words of the line just about to be sung so she could sing it out with confidence and strength of voice.  The songs that we sung, we did so together.  In hindsight, I was simply doing what I had learned from mom over the years.

Unless you find yourself totally reclusive and hide from the outside world – it isn’t difficult to sit back and watch how people treat one another…in a coffee shop, at the mall, in your local park, at a friend’s house for dinner, …in Walmart.

We learn how to be skilled in living by the examples we see before us. Mom was a kind woman who treated others with respect and decency. Though she verbally spoke lessons of kindness, I caught more learning from her actions and the examples I witnessed every day with her.  It was as if though she were shouting with a whisper – teaching me what it looked like to respect and love others without ever raising her voice. Living the lessons of loving others simply by treating others with respect, decency and kindness was her daily practice – her habit.

Looking back, I see a woman who was skilled in living – skilled as a result of daily practice – to the point that she was a true musician – bringing the elements of melody and harmony together – creating beautiful music with her life.  This wasn’t just the music of notes and chords – but of a life lived in harmony with others.

In the Hebrew scriptures the word “Hokmah” is used to represent a life that is lived with great skill.  Literally the word translates – “the skill of living.” In most English texts, we read it as “wisdom.”  For the Hebrew writers in the book of Proverbs, “hokmah” is always related to life-skill – living one’s life in such a way as to both respect oneself, as well as your neighbor, and to influence others to live likewise.

In both music and all of living – if you don’t practice at it daily – you will struggle to be a great musician – you will struggle to become great at treating others with Respect, Decency and Kindness.

Pretty much – you’ll suck at it.

Mom…she lived it and she didn’t suck at it! The question stands – how will I practice today? How will you?