Over the last few days I have witnessed several things that have gone straight to the core of my heart. Some of the things were joyful such as the way today’s choir rehearsal went, or the guy I heard telling his friend the story of the prodigal son in Wendy’s. Some things, however, have been shameful and downright painful to witness. I overhear stupid things on campus every day, but I feel like the things I’ve heard in recent weeks have eclipsed teenage shallowness and entered into the territory of self-involved apathy. I won’t go into detail, but all of these things have made me look into my own life and I recalled the last time I was truly ashamed of myself.
It was in October of last year. Our choir was participating in the Texas All-Women Collegiate something or other. I can’t remember the exact name of the conference, but it was a Saturday where all the Women’s Choruses from the major Texas universities met to put on a joint cncert in support of Breast Cancer Awareness. We had to meet at 6:00 in the morning at the music school to make to to Baylor. This was easy for me since I had never gone to sleep the night before. I had stayed out with a friend who was visiting. We saw Paranormal Activity 2 and hung out and had a grand ole time. After that, I was in no condition to sleep, so I decided to stay awake all night and sleep on the bus. The problem with that plan was that I sat next to friends and we literally never stopped talking, much to the chagrin of our director and fellow bus-mates.
When we arrived at Baylor we went straight into rehearsal and in my dramatic and sleep-deprived memory, I swear I never sat down again until lunch. I was grumpy. I was angry at the crowd of 200+ girls who were screeching like they were 13 and not college women. I was angry with our clinition who had the audacity to tr to shape the screeching preteens into mature young women. I was angry with the girl in my section who was a self-annointed know-it-all and raised her hand for every question, rhetorical, or not. I’m still angry with that girl. Her pestering had nothing to do with me being tired and everythign to do with her being stupid.
I plodded through the day, giving an effort but not my usual 110%. I was exhausted and wanted to get the concert over with so I could go home and get in bed and forget about all the stupid things of this stupid day. Performance time came, and we had a moderate sized crowd. Introductions were made, I was basically in a coma on the over-heated stage, and I stared at the opening bars of my music, hoping my voice didn’t give out, but not really caring if it did. Then our clinition spoke. She was a breast cancer survivor and she began to speak of her experience. She then asked members in the audience to stand if they were survivors. Several women stood. Then she asked people to stand if they had lost someone to breast cancer.
A wave of people stood up. Very few audience members were left sitting. I was taken completely aback and my heart broke as volunteers passed out pink roses to everyone standing. We stood on stage, facing these brave people who had lost mothers, wives, sisters, friends, and I was standing there, rolling my eyes and yawning.
I began to cry, and the girls next to me tried to comfort me. I wanted to sink into the stage and disappear. To melt into oblivion under the harsh spotlights. I have never been more ashamed of myself, and that made me cry harder. I was 21 years old, with as many days ahead of me as God was willing to give me, and I had been so concerned with shallow, pointless matters in my own life that I had let the purpose of that day slip by me entirely, as if it were no more important than choosing an eyeshadow from my stash of many.
I sang as best I could for the concert. My voice was exhausted, but with 200+ girls, that’s okay. I prayed the entire time, asking God to send everyone love and heaiing. To turn my eyes away from myself and onto His suffering people. I know that my performance made little difference to the outcome of the evening, but seeing those people and having that sinking, shameful feeling in my heart is something I will never forget. To think that my compassion couldn’t be coaxed to make an appearance for such petty reasons still brings heat to my cheeks.
While I know I’ll have other days where I fall short of my potential and of God’s expectations, that day will forever be remembered as one of the most heartbreakingly moving and shameful days of my life.