I was in a hurry. It was raining on their picnic and I had just set up my sound system on the front porch in hopes of getting them outside at least for awhile.
I happened to hear one of the residents comment that it was too “cold and damp” to go out there.
“I have to move all of this inside,” I told my friend.
In a short time and much hurry, I had everything set up again in their living room.
But I was clearly exhausted. Sweat ran down my face and the back of my neck was wet. I looked like I was standing in the rain.
I was there to run a sing-a-long. The residents were varied in ages, so I started out with classics like, “By the light of the silvery moon.” Then I handed a few of the younger people a handful of CD’s I brought that just might have something they would like.
I heard earlier that one young girl who lived there was a “professional.” So I hoped I would get to hear her sing.
We had finished a few songs and I approached her.
“Here, see if there is something you would like to sing.”
I no sooner turned away and she said, “This one! This is the one I want to do.”
I looked and she was pointing to “The Rose” by Bette Midler.
“Wow! That would be great!” I said. “I’ll have them sing two more songs then you can sing.”
“Promise?” she asked.
It stopped me. In all the hurry of the moment, one word stopped me. “Promise.”
I thought it was a bit unusual. I mean, this isn’t something I would promise to do. I would just do it.
It seemed like the world stopped. I looked at her and everything was in slow motion around me.
Her hair pulled back, her glasses sat perfectly on her face and her young innocence showed in the acne splashed across her forehead.
There was a twinkle in her left eye, not the sparkly fairy-like twinkle of youth, but one that told me there was something wrong with it.
I snapped back into the moment and struggled to play the next song for them.
Then I introduced her.
“Michelle wants to sing for us, ” I said. The group cheered.
Then the music started.
She was an angel. Her voice pure and her presence soft and gentle on the eye.
“Some say love it is a river…”
I stood across the room mesmerized.
When she finished I cheered. I ran over to thank her, praise her and hug her for what she had given us.
Later she asked if she could sing again.
Without hesitation I said, “Absolutely! Pick out another song.”
“I want to sing one I wrote. There’s no music,” she said.
My body sank into a peacefulness that warmed my heart just knowing she was so much more than her environment.
The home we were gathered in was for those with mental challenges. Not some spiffed up, spit-shine facility, but a real home-like atmosphere. New people expect more when they walk in but I have learned to see it with a more forgiving eye. Like when you visit grandma’s house. Old age, poor vision causes her to miss a few spots here and there, while the paint fades but the memory of it lingers on.
It was her turn again. The room went silent and I focused so much on her I forgot where I was.
She did it perfectly. It was so well written I swear it could have been used as one of the closing songs for the American Idol winner.
And she wrote it.
It was positive, hope filled and powerful beyond measure. Her pitch was perfect and all eyes were on her.
When she stopped I walked up to congratulate her.
“I’m almost finished here. I want to talk with you afterwards,” I said. “Would that be OK?”
“Yes, sure,” she replied.
I rushed to wrap up and I packed all my equipment.
I wanted to ask her where that song came from and if she had others.
It was during our conversation I began to understand why she made me “Promise?”
She was violently abused as a child. In fact, so violently that it caused detached retinas in both eyes. One blinded and the other, as she curled her right index finger and placed it over her right eye she said, “I can only see the world like this. I am legally blind.”
I looked at her and said, “But you have a great gift that many lack. You can see what’s inside you. That’s where the songs you write come from.”
I left there that day a different man. Oh, yes, everyone I meet touches my life in such a way as to make me better for having met them. But, this one…this young lady…is hope for the world.
I have decided that somehow I need to help her get to somewhere where she can make a recording. Not so much to turn her life into stardom, but so as to give something back to her she lost as a child.
I found out just yesterday that she sang for a wedding at a local church. I wish I knew. I would have been there.
But I’ll go back…I “Promise!”
“I believe in You!”
~ Bob Perks ~