Singing From the Heart

By Diane Stark

Singing From the Heart

“Did you get a solo this time?” My sister asked excitedly.

I shook my head, as disappointed as I’d ever been in all of my eleven years on this earth. “No. Did you?”

She shrugged one shoulder. “No. I guess we just aren’t a very musical family.”

“But I love singing,” I said. “And I’ve tried out for a solo every year since I was in kindergarten. The kids’ choir is fun, but it would be a lot more fun if I could get a special part, even just one time.” I slumped down, disappointed. “I guess I’m just not a good singer.”

My sister patted my shoulder. “It’ll still be fun though. I really like the program we’re doing this year.”

Mandy was right. Our church’s kids’ choir was doing our spring program on the story of Daniel and the lion’s den. It was one of my favorite Bible stories, but I couldn’t help being disappointed that I didn’t have any lines of my own.

Our choir director gave each of us kids a CD with the songs on it. Over the next several weeks, I practiced singing the songs until my voice was hoarse. One song in particular was my very favorite, and I sang it all the time. I think I even dreamed about it.

The weekend before our big performance at church, the director had arranged for us to sing at a local retirement home. She thought it would be good practice for us, and the elderly people that lived there would enjoy watching us perform.

But when we arrived at the retirement home, the director was really upset. One of the soloists had come down with strep throat and would not be there to sing her part.

“Does anyone know Jessica’s song?” The choir director asked, getting more worried by the minute.

I raised my hand high. I knew every word of Jessica’s solo. Her part was my favorite song in the entire program, the one I’d been singing for weeks. I glanced around and realized that no other child had raised his hand.

The director looked past me. “Does any else know Jessica’s part?” But all of the other kids shrugged or shook their heads no.

The choir director finally looked at me and sighed. “I guess you’re going to be doing a solo today.” She had heard me try-out year in and year out, so she knew I wasn’t a good singer. But I was the only one there who knew Jessica’s part.

When my big moment arrived, I stepped onto the stage, gripping the microphone tightly, and I was only a little bit nervous. I got every word of the song right, although I’m sure they were in the wrong key. Even still, singing in front of all of those people made me feel like a star. Many of the old people smiled at me while I sang and a few of them even clapped along with the music. It was really fun, and it made me feel good to know that I’d made them happy.

After the program was over, we enjoyed milk and cookies provided by the retirement home. I had just bitten into an oatmeal raisin cookie, when an elderly woman came up and hugged me. “I loved your song!” She shouted at me. “It was wonderful!” I realized that the woman must be extremely hard of hearing because she was talking so loudly. “I could tell the song came from the bottom of your heart!”

Later, when my mom congratulated me, I shrugged and said, “I only got to sing because nobody else knew the song.”

“But that lady came up and hugged you, and she looked so happy. She loved your song,” my mom reminded me.

I rolled my eyes. “She was practically deaf, Mom. She probably couldn’t even hear me singing.”

“But did you listen to her? She said she could tell the song came from your heart. And that made it beautiful.”

I rolled my eyes again. “Mom, I had a ton of fun singing for those people, and I guess I made that lady happy, but we both know that I’m not a good singer.”

“Honey, what is the purpose of music?”

Mom’s question made me stop and think. “To make people feel good?”

Mom nodded. “You did that today. No matter how you think your voice sounded, your song made people happy. And that made it beautiful.”

My performance in the retirement home was my only solo throughout my years in the kids’ choir. And now, thirty years later, I still love to sing, even though I haven’t learned to carry a tune without a bucket.

Although I still envy people who can sing, I’ve never forgotten my mom’s advice that day. When my kids and I crank up the car radio, I don’t worry about how I sound. If my singing makes my kids laugh, I don’t take offense.

I remember that the purpose of music is to make people happy. If our concerts in the car make my kids laugh, that creates a memory. They don’t notice my off-key singing. They only see that we’re having fun together.

God, in His infinite wisdom, did not choose to gift me with any musical ability whatsoever. But I’ve come to accept it.

I’ve learned that being able to sing is a gift, and if your song makes people happy, it always sounds beautiful.

Even when it doesn’t.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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3 Responses to “Singing From the Heart”

  1. Erika Hoffman says:

    What a great lesson your mom taught you and what a great message you conveyed to us readers. You point out so eloquently that what really matters in any interaction with others is how you make the others feel.

  2. Rose Ann says:

    There’s lots of us “non-tune carrying” singers out there. Our song may not sound good, but it certainly feels good:) Nice essay.

  3. Diane,
    Your story transported me back top my childhood days. I was thrilled to be a part of the choir! Great story.

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