Before I moved to Columbia, I thought I had, if not soul, at least something that could pass for rhythm.This belief stemmed directly from the fact that I spent my high school career surrounded by European missionary kids and my college career surrounded by people who weren’t allowed to dance. (I danced–but my friends really wished I wouldn’t).
Such an absurd belief in my mad rhythm skillz now seems tantamount to Britney Spears thinking she has a singing career.
See, I drove into Columbia determined to find a multiethnic church, mostly because I think the Church as a whole needs to value and celebrate diversity more (and I think it’s wrong to complain about the Church as a whole without being willing to try to change it).
I managed to find said congregation, and last semester joined the choir, a small, multiethnic group full of. . .well, rhythm. And clapping skills. And the ability to sing gospel.
Being able to out-clap a group of white Midwestern college students was not the “get into choir free” pass that I had expected.
See, our choir moves, and not with the stiff, robot-like movements with which a white-trained choir girl is familiar. I spent the first several weeks of choir helplessly playing human pinball between the shoulders of my neighbors.
It doesn’t help that for several months, I stood next to a person we’ll call D. D is one of those humbling and obnoxious people who is better than me at everything. His singing voice is the auditory version of molten chocolate, while mine has the frustrating propensity to sound like a baby bird caught in a garbage disposal. To make matters worse, even though homeboy is a bass, his falsetto goes higher than my ‘realetto.’ But it wasn’t until a few months into singing with the choir that I realized that D also has a talent for making me weep inside.
I don’t remember what song it was, but I had finally decided that this was the week–I was going to try to sway, sing, and clap, all at once. I took a deep breath. . .began to sway. . .and then, as the choir began to clap, I lifted my hands and–oh, have mercy, what is D doing?
D had, before my startled white ears, morphed into a human drumline. He was doing some clapping percussion, of the freestyle variety. It was excellent. And I was ruined. Ruined, I tell you. I couldn’t even decipher the regular clapping rhythm, and if I had, I would have been far too disheartened to attempt my rhythmic debut.
I haven’t clapped once since that day. I have even been approached by people who ask with concern in their eyes, “Lauren, I’ve noticed that you don’t clap when everyone else does. Is something wrong? Are you lacking the joy of the Lord?”
I assure them that while the joy is there, the ability to convey said joy through rhythmic movement is not. I also inform them that I try to convey the joy in other ways, like through my facial expressions, to which they usually reply, “Yes, we’ve noticed. . . Please stop.”
I thought I had dodged the rhythm bullet. . .but this Sunday, our choir is presenting our annual Christmas program.
We have to clap.
All of us.
That means me.
Thankfully, I have been moved to the second row (on the end). There is both good news and bad news inherent in this position. First of all, it means that if I sway with a little too much vim, as I am apt to do, I can’t land on the gracious and forgiving shoulder of a neighbor; I shall go sailing out of the choir deck. (If this happens, I shall retire my choir career on the spot.)
On the bright side, however, this means that I have not only been removed from the side of my clapping nemesis, but that I am now able to study his every move. Heads up, D. I’m watching you, and one day, when you least expect it, I’m going to challenge you to the clapping showdown of your life.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
(But not for at least another year and a half. If that).