Do You Hear the People Sing?

les-miserables_1

It’s hard not to think of the heroic music and theme of Les Miserables when mourning the Paris attacks this weekend. And those in Beirut. And all the other places around the world where terrorism has hit in recent months.

In the Victor Hugo book and the musical Les Miserables, we see that France’s democratic revolutionaries in 1789 and 1832 had to endure ‘reigns of terror’ as well. They fought against awful odds for their freedom, fighting for democracy and a new way of life. Factions and divisions, political power struggles and regime changes everywhere. Young people caught in the crossfire. The same ideals as those which were attacked this past Friday, and on 9/11, and at so many other points. Some things never change, some battles seem to never end. In Les Miserables, we see this constant struggle in the checkered but redeemed life of Jean Valjean, set against the backdrop of a Paris in post-Napoleonic rebellion. On Friday, we saw it in the robbery of innocent lives taken at the Bataclan, the Stade de France, and along the unsuspecting streets of the City of Light.

Do You Hear the People Sing? Sadly, many of them have been silenced on earth. But we hear their song from the heavens, even as we saw so powerfully at the conclusion of Les Miserables, when Jean Valjean dies among loved ones ‘past and present,’ and joins the chorus of the beloved martyrs who gave their lives for France’s freedom (see the film version in the link below).

Truth can never be silenced. Truth is eternal. Good will win, evil will lose, eventually — though many consider that a naïve approach, with so much suffering in the interim, yes — but it is long stated in the oldest of texts and scriptures in one way or another. Victory will come. “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”

But in the meantime, we toil. People hurt each other. Misrepresent each other. Kill each other in body or spirit or mind or heart. Our imperfect efforts to counteract such evil and mean-spiritedness never seem enough. We can only hold fast to what we know to be true, holy, integrous. We can only ask God for another chance each morning, and try our best to keep the faith and live out our values, one day at a time, until tomorrow, if we’re blessed to have it come; we can only pray and serve, seek forgiveness, and love and take care of each other best we can.

Because…“To love another person is to see the face of God…”

Onward.

“Do You Hear The People Sing?” (Reprise Finale)

Do you hear the people sing
Lost in the valley of the night?
It is the music of a people
Who are climbing to the light.

For the wretched of the earth
There is a flame that never dies.
Even the darkest night will end
And the sun will rise.

They will live again in freedom
In the garden of the Lord.
We will walk behind the ploughshare;
We will put away the sword.
The chain will be broken
And all men will have their reward.

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
When tomorrow comes!

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
When tomorrow comes!

One a Day

IMG_14532

Now that a heavy time commitment — a volunteer leadership role I had — has ended (besides the wrapping up that’s always involved), I’m finally able to return to some things that I’ve, well, neglected.

Exercise (I’ve resumed daily morning walks).

Down time (what’s that?)

And — Our House.

file0001326995371

You know. The place where we live, that I haven’t cleaned in a while. The mail, the laundry, the purging, the boxes that need to be sent, the filing, my writing project drafts everywhere, the kids’ stuff, the Goodwill pile.

All THAT stuff.

So I’ve been taking it a bit at a time. I’ve told myself that each day (or most days) I will do a One a Day. Like the vitamins we know so well.

Screen shot 2015-08-01 at 9.33.02 AM

Here’s what One a Day can look like.

One a Day (cleaning):

  • One cabinet a day
  • One drawer a day
  • One pile a day

Or with writing:

  • One paragraph a day
  • One chapter a day
  • One research topic a day

The point? Manageable daily goals.

We grew up with our Dad often paraphrasing an Albert Einstein quote about how we can master anything if we do it fifteen minutes a day. We often took that in the context of learning something — a musical instrument, a new skill or hobby.

But it can also apply to accomplishing any project or discipline, like cleaning or spiritual reflection time, or writing, or exercising, or organizing. We’ll master anything to which we devote consistent time.

Anything that we give fifteen minutes a day to will flourish, whether reading with our kids, praying for a specific area of our life, or cleaning that pile that stares us in the face as we pass it each day.

My first week ‘back’ to normal, post-commitment, I was proud of what I was able to do, Monday-Friday:

  • I cleaned out four cabinets
  • Took four walks
  • Cleared two Rubbermaid bins
  • Took one trip to Goodwill with three giveaway bags
  • Did four loads of laundry
  • Started prepping our daughter’s room for painting

Then all the unhelpful talk crept in my head:

But you still have so much to do! This didn’t even make a dent! Everything is still everywhere — awful!

Then I tried to tell myself that I can’t make up for two years in one week. It was still progress. That’s all that matters. Progress. Forward motion. One bit at a time.

One a Day.

What One a Days are you going to attempt this week?

Onward!

Reflecting on a July 4th Favorite: Yankee Doodle Dandy

Yankee Doodle Dandy, 1942 (Through 2:46)

Anyone who knows movies knows that the brass section of the Warner Bros. Studio Orchestra was like no other. Whether scoring a Bugs Bunny cartoon, Bogart film or Errol Flynn swashbuckler, their trumpets are instantly recognizable, and warming to the soul.

Like in Yankee Doodle Dandy, the 1942 James Cagney film that won him an Oscar for Best Actor portraying the song and dance man and Broadway actor/composer/producer, George M. Cohan — who crafted the famous songs Grand Old Flag, Over There, Give My Regards to Broadway, and of course the title song. The above scene is one of the greatest musical dance numbers ever put on film.

Here on this July 4th weekend, hearing those heralding trumpets again, and through all my years, I was reminded how special this film has been to our family in so many ways.

My mother always says that when I was just a toddler, I’d get up on the piano bench during the famous scene above, and I would start dancing with glee on my face.

As a bigger kid, I’d practice and practice this dance routine in the living room or garage and imitate it best I could — as well as the final scene when the elder George dances down the stairs of the White House after receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor from FDR:

Then as a pre-teen, I was struck by what a bratty stage kid young George was, and how his arrogance hurt his family’s opportunities on the vaudeville circuit. And yet I loved how wonderfully kind and humble he became later in life, with the right discipline, guidance and wisdom from his family and friends. Strong yet gentle. It made me think of my own parents raising us while juggling so many demands — their example, and Cohan’s, made me want to be a better writer for the stage myself, and a better person.

Later, the film shaped my view of our country, of how art can touch people in times of crisis, and how our personal integrity and loyalty to family are far more important than our success.

And finally, now more than ever, watching it with our daughters, this film reminds me that I’m so grateful for the freedom to live each day that comes our way, to worship God, to celebrate together as family and friends on weekends like this, and to share the truths that matter most with our precious children.

My mother thanks you…

My father thanks you…

My sister thanks you…

And I thank you…

Onward!

My Word for 2015

Screen shot 2015-01-04 at 3.57.39 PM

My word for 2015 is SHED.

Shed.

Not the noun; the verb.

Get rid.

Of a lot.

I looked at what the dictionary says. There are actually several definitions of SHED, but this one resonated with me the most:

Continue reading