This has been a question that has plagued me all my life.
We are born with a voice so beautiful that all Pope Francis wanted to do was hear the voices of children. It seemed he only really “lit up” when he saw a child along the parade routes. Perhaps he understands that the time when we are truly ourselves with our own special and unique voices are when we are young. And then, what in the world happens to tell us to “quiet down”?
Recently I ended a relationship with a man I loved. It seemed I loved him so much that I was willing to give it everything I had, except one thing…my voice. I finally realized that was not an option, or as I am prone to say it was a “non-negotiable”. I realized after it was over just how many times in my life I have surrendered my voice. And I remembered too, the times when, even though I was very young, I used it “come hell or high water”. Let me tell you one story…
Spending much of my youth living with my grandmother in rural North Carolina, I had no choice but to go to church where Ted Cruz or Jerry Falwell might have “ministered”. Every Sunday I would attend a Southern Baptist church where, every Sunday in Sunday School we sang “Jesus Loves the Little Children”. The lyrics said, “all the children of the world”. I loved that song and Jesus, a man who could love everyone, “red and yellow, black and white”.
One Sunday sitting in the shiny wooden pew, my grandmother beside me, the church meeting was called to order. The subject: What to do if a N—-r (yep, the “N” word) came to church. You see, it was “happening” other places, so a strategy was called for.
I was 5, maybe 6 years old and before I knew it, I felt myself standing up on the pew, my little Sunday-go-to-meeting dress being tugged by my grandmother. It was as if I was watching it happen, but it was ME, and it was MY voice saying, “I don’t understand. I just came from Sunday School where we sang”Jesus Loves the Little Children” and the song said he loves “all the children of the world”. How can you be asking what to do if those children want to come to church?” Now THAT was my voice.
That’s the voice I want to remember, the one I want to use again, the one I will never again compromise. I hope you will remember yours too and begin again to speak what you know is true in a world where voices like yours and mine are so needed.