Monday, November 17, 2008

Let's Put on a Show!

Our church works the same all over the world. There are no paid local ministers, so everything is done on a volunteer basis, with everyone who's willing holding down an assignment of some kind. The meetings aren't exactly a variety show, but the speakers change from week to week, with some, of course, more successful at it than others.
Once a year, an unusual thing happens. The children, ages three to twelve, and their leaders take over. The wife, as it happens, is the pianist for these little darlings. It's an assignment she enjoys, but this annual event does put a little pressure on her, not just to get the notes right, but to be in sync with everyone else as they try to cram the whole business - singing, reading and speaking - into about forty minutes.
The congregation only has about 25 such kids, but that's still enough to have some unusual things happen. This year it went great. No one lost their nerve when it was time to speak into the microphone. Everyone knew when their turn was coming. No one decided to randomly punch the person next to them. But little Nathan, a tiny boy who may not yet be four, a kid who might have to reach up to hit your kneecap, somehow got an idea of his own. During a certain song, he decided to show everyone that he had learned it well by shouting instead of singing the words. The adults started to smile, then the other kids could ignore it no longer and started smiling, too. His big brother, who really isn't much bigger at five years old, was standing next to Nathan and dealt with the situation the best he could - by covering his ears. The music continued - what choice did they have? - until the song concluded and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
The parents of the congregation get their little charges slightly more dressed up for this program. The girls seem to act pretty naturally in dresses, taking their cues from their mothers. The boys, all in white shirts and ties, have a harder time. They fidget in a way that makes the shirts look as though they'd been slept in. Ties are a bit foreign to all males, and one wonders when we'll have someone remove his midway through an Inaugural address, burying the haberdashery industry forever the way Kennedy wrecked men's hats by leaving his off back in 1961. Anyway, the boys get a preview of adult life by starting with clip-on ties, then moving on as teenagers to the kind worn by fewer and fewer professionals. The boys tolerate the ties with surprising patience, though I'm sure they wonder what the ties are "for".
I've got about 40 of them, and wear precisely one each week, so the current collection should last for decades. I'm already concerned about what will become of them when I'm gone. Included in a quilt? Divided among disappointed grandsons? Employed in an artist's collage? Cut into bookmarks (assuming books still exist)? Or simply thrown out with the garbage, which I think would be sad, though that's where MY dad's ties met their end. Funny, I have no thoughts about any other clothing: tennis shoes, belts, socks or even suits. No, just the ties that prove I was once an adult and, like the children, knew how to "put on a show".


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