I stood next to my brother, Charles. I placed my hand on his shoulder. I did not want to fall. Underneath my red and white choir robe, no one could see the back brace or the clunky orthopedic shoes I wore. Those who heard my voice singing in the Cherub Choir had no idea of what was going on inside me. What I was feeling. What it meant to be in the Choir. To stand beside other kids like me but in so many ways I was different
As you look at the photograph of me in the Choir, please know this. Underneath that big red bow was a boy who felt for the first time after polio that he belonged. That there was something more beautiful than the ugly mess polio left him. That he had an important role to play in life besides being a good patient or working hard at rehabilitation. That in singing hymns he knew that he was part of something bigger than the challenges he faced. Not forgotten. To God, he was special, not different. Just as special as all the other choir boys and girls without polio. In many ways, being in the Cherub Choir was more healing than all the surgeries and all the years of therapy to come.
While rummaging through a file of keepsakes today, I came across this photograph given to me by Anita Wheatcroft, wife of Rev. Richard Wheatcroft, the founding Rector of St. Francis Episcopal Church-Houston. Some of you may recognize my sister, Carolyn, my cousins, Deborah and Melissa Flint, the Wheatcroft children, David and Elizabeth, and others I can no longer name. (If you recognize any of the other children in the picture, please post their names in reply to the prayer).
In Cherub Choir we sang in church services. We sang carols in the Christmas pageant, a pageant in which my mother was Mary. Walking past me, she held God’s infant son wrapped in a blanket. As Mom and others processed past me and as the Cherub Choir sang Silent Night, I had the miraculous, comforting feeling that God was holding me too. All of me. All I once was. What I was then. What I might become in life. What it meant to truly be a child of His.
I am much older now. My choir boy voice is gone. The original church building, in which the Cherub Choir practiced and performed on Piney Point Road, no longer stands. The old church building (subsequently named the Wheatcroft Parish Hall) was recently razed to make way for a new structure and for progress in service to God.
As I look at the vacant land where the old church used to be, I am a little sad. However, the sadness does not block my memory of being that young post-polio choir boy. Of proudly wearing the choir robe with the large red bow wrapped around my neck. As I sang, Yes, Jesus Loves Me, my heart heard a choir of angels from above, with their voices singing back to me, “Yes, God loves you, Jack.” Today, the good, great news is that God still does.
God has spoken in Scripture as to the blessings of music.
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.
Let the field exult, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy.
But I will sing of your strength,
In the morning I will sing of your love,
For you are my fortress,
My refuge in times of trouble.
Dear God, in my service to You may I sing songs of praise and thanksgiving for the wonders of Your Kingdom.
God may my voice of song and words of prayer rise above the deafening sounds of today which distract me from being centered in You.
God, when I feel alone, may I remember that the doors of Your house are always open. In Your home, there is something bigger than my troubles.
God, may my body of work and love in service to You, like the voices of a church choir, glorify and magnify Your holy name. Amen