Working out the Harmony

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Before dishwashers, there was singing.  My sisters and I had evening kitchen duty for our family of nine.  One of us would scrape and stack the dishes, another cleared and wiped counters, one washed, one dried, one put away-something like that.   Unless one of us said “Shut Up!” to a sibling that day in which case the whole shebang was ours alone (as you can imagine, we devised some clever alternatives like, “Shut Ut” or Up Shut”, but my mother wasn’t stupid).

We literally sang through the work- well, when we weren’t arguing about someone being “as slow as molasses in January,”  or another kitchen-related mortal sin.  It really didn’t matter what song was sung, as long as we could come up with awesome harmony.  Some of our favorite titles were, “Bluebirds Over the Mountains”, “Poor Man Lazarus,”  and  “I’m Gonna Ride the Chariots.”  These were songs my older sisters brought home from high school in the 60’s. Us younger kids were in awe of them, their bubble hairdos, and any songs emanating from that mysterious place of higher education.   With damp muslin dishtowels as props, we twirled our way through the myriad of dishes and songs, honing both our  housekeeping and musical skills.  Performing 365 evenings a year at our kitchen venue was significant practice and we became good at singing.  Really Good.  We hear a melody, we know the 3rd and 5th harmonies like the back of our melmac dishes.

Once I encountered a gal who was taking professional “harmonizing lessons” so she could sing on a worship team.  She asked me where I’d learned such harmonies.  I was astonished!  I’d never even thought of having to learn how to harmonize!  But come to think of it, I had learned in the best way:  doing it, practicing it, going over it again and again and having my other sister’s lead the way;  experiencing not only hours of labor, but hours of joy, learning to work and sing together.  We didn’t notice the process- only the  moment we knew we had “gotten it right”: sung our parts without leering away into someone else’s, nor falling off in confusion, and we’d hold the last note out long and longer to enjoy the magic that is good music.  It’s called glory.

I have been thinking lately about the Bible verse that tells us to “live in harmony with each other.”  To live in harmony means we  don’t all sing the same notes; we sing complimentary notes.  We may even sing dissident notes as long as we resolve the tension in the end. We don’t all sing at the same time, we wait for our part.  We listen, we do our part, we fit in and allow others to fit in, too.  Learning to live in harmony is a process, whether in marriage, the church, or the guy next door, but when we get it right, it’s glory.

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