Hands and a Song

Photo Credit: ladyvee9 via Flickr

Inside the church, the air was hot, like a weight pressing down on the building and the congregants in it. Summer in Chicago will do that.

The service was nearing its end. My husband and I sat shoulder to shoulder, lost in our own thoughts. Mine shifted between prayer, reflection, daydreams, and ideas about where we might go for lunch following the service.

As the ceiling fans whirred on, circulating warm air around our tiny Unitarian church, the congregation stood to sing the concluding song. A few congregants moved to the front of the church, making up the modest choir. I glanced at the program and read that we would be singing “Lean on Me,” by Bill Withers.

The song began soft and low. I made it through the first few lines of the song before my voice cracked. I stopped singing, determined to maintain my poised facade. But like a facial brings the impurities of the skin to the surface, this song seemed to bring the troubles of my soul to the surface. Thoughts of the miscarriages, financial setbacks, career uncertainties, family moves, and personal insecurities all bubbled to the surface and threatened to spill out.

I braced myself, determined to maintain my steely resolve. I would not cry. I would not let myself feel.

I gathered myself and resumed singing, softly and quietly, with my head down and pushed the troubling thoughts from my head. The volume increased as more congregants joined in and the pianist played with increased animation.

… For no one can fill
Those of your needs
That you won’t let show…

I felt the hand of the person next to me wrap around mine. I looked up. Throughout the church, other congregants were clasping hands. I timidly grabbed my husband’s hand and laced my fingers within his.

I looked at the faces around me. I saw the faces of new friends, good friends. Friends who, if it weren’t for our spiritual connection at this tiny Unitarian church, I would never know. Friends who were facing unbearable struggles – divorce, layoffs, illness, and death. Friends who knew that I wanted more and wanted to be more. Friends who, nonetheless, respected me for the me that I was now.

…Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on…

I felt hands clasped tightly around my own hands, supporting me, lifting me up, and cradling me. As I looked at the people around me, I considered the souls hidden behind the faces and the private struggles we were all enduring.

To hell with my holding it in, I thought. To hell with putting up a brave front. To hell with pretending. I resumed singing, louder now, and let the tears flow freely down my face. I surrendered. And just then, a cool breeze drifted through the window next to me, carrying away the sultry heaviness of heat and sadness – for a few moments at least.

This week I’m linking up with Yeah Write.

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29 Responses to Hands and a Song

  1. Lovely, Christie. A supportive community in whatever form that takes is essential to our well-being. My comes in the form of the group of women who gather 3 times a week for yoga class. It is our “church.” We cry together, listen to each other’s woes and joys, breathe and practice in community. I love these women. At the end of each class we chant from the yoga sutras. Lean on Me, that’s what we do. I love the image of your hand intertwined with your husband. Nice.

  2. Great post. I love that line in the song, “For no one can fill those of your needs that you won’t let show…” Good for you for letting it show.

  3. iasoupmama says:

    I was in a cast of a show that sang “Lean on Me” every night before we performed — it was a lovely reminder that we were all there together always… Very stirring post…

  4. Emma says:

    “I considered the souls behind the faces…” I think we all don’t do that enough… Well done!

    • Thank you. It’s amazing to think about all of the personal struggles that everyone is going through. I tend to get stuck in the “woe is me” mindset and fail to realize that others are dealing with their own stuff too. If we just leaned on each other more instead of putting up fronts, we might happier.

  5. christina says:

    oh this moved me. beautiful post.

  6. Very moving post! Loved it!

  7. I read this earlier and then now. Wonderful improvements, and so well told.

  8. Small groups, especially those with an spiritual element are some of the most caring communities on earth. If we feel safe there — there is nothing like it.

  9. Carrie says:

    Its so great to find a place where you can be yourself and let all the defences down. I’m glad you found that place for a little while! 🙂

  10. Larks says:

    Community support is an amazing thing. On the one hand, nothing changes when you go to church or otherwise spend time with your community. Your problems are still there, same as ever. But on the other hand *everything* changes. Love this song too. 🙂

  11. tara pohlkotte says:

    yes. that community of broken souls. i know this, and love this well. have you watched the documentary called “still bill” on bill withers? gah. made me fall right on in love with the man.

    • Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll have to check it out. BTW, I noticed from your FB page that you are from Appleton – correct? I’m from the Fox Valley too! A little town called Berlin. I’ve got family that lives in Neenah and Menasha. Small world, huh?

      • tara pohlkotte says:

        ok, my comment notification thingy was broken so i just saw this. Yea! Shut up!! so small world. i actually work in Neenah 🙂

  12. mamarific says:

    I always get choked up in church, also. I think it’s where we’re most raw. Great post.

  13. Lovely and stirring – a beautiful post. I love the surrender … ahhhh.

  14. As soon as I read the words Lean on Me, I couldn’t stop the song from playing in my head; I had to hear it, so I went to iTunes to download it. It’s been so long since I last downloaded anything from iTunes that I forgot Apple ID password. After several attempts, I finally got my password reset, but then iTunes couldn’t access my billing information and told me to come back later. I persisted and finally got the song. I thought I was going to need a hand getting my music.

  15. raisingivy says:

    I love that in the midst of this sweet, emotional story you include the great detail that you’re thinking about where to eat lunch after church. That absolutely grounded the story for me; well done!

  16. I can’t remember, though it wasn’t long ago, that I realized you can’t sing when you’re fighting tears, but that when you let the tears go, the song comes stronger. I felt that moment of realization all over again reading your story.

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  18. This is a great post! I love the use of the song and they way you moved the story forward. That song gets me too sometimes.

  19. Pingback: Enough | Random Reflectionz

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