This was our fifth Christmas here in Mumbai. It’s different and it’s taken time to get adjusted to and though we have missed our family and friends back home, I have to say Christmas has been no less special. And it’s not special in a condescending sort of way. Not in the kind of way that I who have been so blessed was able to spend time with those that were so less blessed. Devaraj has often told me that we need to be humbled that those that have suffered such hardships would have enough grace to invite us into their lives and walk with them. The longer I am here, the better I understand what he means by that statement.
This year, one of our celebrations involved having a camping night at our Academy where friends from Mumbai came and celebrated with us. It turned out beautiful and the children performed a musical that was captivating. Through the direction of our new Music Director, they sang like angels. Two of our young girls had solos and I don’t remember ever hearing anything so beautiful (there may be a slight bias). Then the children all sang together and they sounded like choirs of angels. The audience didn’t’ want it to end, at the end of the play, we all shouted for them to perform one of the songs again. All of it was performed outside under the night sky. It was just beautiful.
And as I sat there watching, my mind wandered over to a Christmas celebration I attended the previous year. This one was also held outside under a night sky but the guys that are part of our men’s program at BTC organised it. They also had some plays and songs but oh how different it was. There was no music director (at least I hope there wasn’t) and no solos. Instead, a group of ten men got up to the front and began belting out Christmas songs. To say that it sounded horrid would be an understatement. I could fairly say that their singing was offensive to those sitting around. In all their songs, there was not one right note that was hit. I say this with full awareness that I am not close to being musically inclined. The last time I sang, it was at a Sunday school competition and I can still clearly see some of the moms trying hard to not laugh (time has passed but the wounds have not healed). But the sound was so bad that I could not have compassion. The funny thing though was that the ten men who were singing were oblivious to it all, they even seemed happy to be up in the front making fools of themselves. When it was finished, they sat down and my colleague, Lalrin, who heads up the men’s homes, went up to share. And I felt sorry for him, how was he going to do damage control on this wreck. He got up and as he tried to speak, he stopped, he couldn’t, he was getting choked up and his eyes were watery with tears. I thought that was a bit odd, sure, they sounded horrible but it wasn’t really something to cry over. He gathered himself and began speaking; “I can’t help but be overcome with emotion because each of these men told me that this is the first year in so many that they are not in the streets alone on a Christmas night, the first night in years that they are not feeling the devastating loneliness that comes after the effect of alcohol has worn off. They told me that they know they can’t sing well but they sing because of the joy that is coming from their hearts. And I am overcome with emotion because I was once there myself. So for me, these songs sound beautiful.”
Perhaps, the songs were actually so beautiful that the choirs of Angels paused to hear a beautiful sound of gratitude to their maker.