Stuck At The Kiddie Table

It happened a few weeks ago. I was sitting in my usual seat, listening to the instructions that were being given. Wondering why we were going over this….AGAIN. I wasn’t sure if my patience would endure much longer. My annoyance had been growing over the past few months, but I kept shrugging it off and replaced it with indifference. This time, it was a bit too palpable. This isn’t what I wanted. What I wanted was to get up and leave.

It’s a little known fact that I like to sing. You might even say, I love to sing. My singing portfolio includes four choirs, three praise teams, and, I hate to admit, a high school R&B group. So when I moved to Pittsburgh, it was imperative that I join a choir. I chose to join the all-male gospel choir at my church. There were other choirs I could have joined, but something about the image of a group of black men devoting their time to singing for the Lord drew me to this choir. They welcomed me as one of their own as soon as I attended the first rehearsal. We sang at other churches, nursing homes, community centers, all over. It felt good.

The issue was that I wasn’t used to the demographic and song selection of the choir. The choir is full of older men. Almost all of the guys are AT LEAST 20 years my senior. A lot of them spent their entire lives in Pittsburgh. It’s been really hard for me to connect with most of them. We make jokes during rehearsal and exchange small talk, but nothing past that. And as “my shit don’t stink” as this is gonna sound, I can’t deal with the quality of the singing anymore. Some of the guys have an ear for music and can sing pretty good. But the rest are just awful. Tone deaf. Screaming notes. Can’t follow the tempo. The quality and breadth of songs we can sing is handcuffed by this too. And it’s sooooooo frustrating when my entire section gets pointed out for being wrong when it’s the same people who can’t get the notes right (see: not me). I just feel like I’m at the wrong table. I’m with the kids.

I praise God through song. That’s my gift. I can praise Him in other ways, but nothing makes me feel closer to Him than when I praise Him through song. But I can’t focus on God when all I hear is you singing in the wrong key. I know that church people try to say that it doesn’t matter what you sound like when you’re singing for God, but it DOES when it’s your ministry! As a choir it’s our job to bring others into worship. We can’t do that effectively if our sound is not on point.

I’ve considered joining our church’s Praise Team, who sound PHENOMENALLY better than the Male Choir and are more my pace. However, even though I would be fine with quitting the choir today, I made a commitment to sing with them in August. I don’t like going back on my word, so if you see me tweeting about them, you’ll know why. But after that, I’ll be ready to leave the kiddie table and hopefully find myself looking forward to choir rehearsals again.



Making Up For Lost Time

One of my friends jokingly called me a deadbeat brother a few weeks ago. Let me explain…

I was 11 years old when my little brother was born. As his older brother, I had a hand in raising him. I changed his diapers. Saw him learn to walk. Shared a bunk bed with him. Taught him how to drive. He was my Mini Me. And then, I went off to college. I was loving being away from the nest. Not in that Girls Gone Wild sort of way, but in a “it’s refreshing to meet so many new women people” sort of way. I was only about 45 minutes from home, but I didn’t go back too often. At this point, my brother was starting first grade and I was no longer a constant presence in his life. I spent every year after that at college or an out-of-state internship so I didn’t see him much. Phone calls checking up on him were rare. I essentially had an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. Hell, I grew up without an older brother to guide me through parts of my life and I turned out more than okay so I thought he wouldn’t need one either.

I started to take notice of how much I was neglecting him once his grades were consistently below average. He was always a well-behaved kid, but he started having trouble in his classes. Whenever I asked, he was never sure what was causing his grades to slip so far. I’d give him general advice and suggestions on how to improve his study habits, but he kept bringing home the same results. My parents are old and tired at this point and can’t help him with his homework even if they tried. Grounding him for bad grades is the only weapon in their arsenal and they’re not even consistent with that. Without being there to monitor his learning habits, I couldn’t truly know what he was doing wrong nor enforce a study regimen.

After another report card with failing grades, my dad had the crazy idea that my brother should come and stay with me in Pittsburgh. If I couldn’t come to him, then he would come to me. I wasn’t a fan of the idea at first. I have a busy schedule as is. Add having to put together an itinerary for a 14-year-old and you can see why I was hesitant to agree to it. But I knew that something needed to be done. This was a chance for me to make up for lost time. Whatever the issue is with my brother, it isn’t going to be solved by staying home where he’d spend his days playing PS3 and watching Netflix. He is going to be beginning the ninth grade at the end of the summer and won’t last long if his grades continue to look like they do. The least I can do is try. So that’s what I’m doing.

My brother is going to be my temporary roommate for the next month. I’ll have him working on his study habits, as well as working on other areas that he’s lacking in. Hopefully, by the end of it all, he will be a better scholar and more well-rounded man. To be honest, I’m curious as to how this whole experience will change me as well. To now have a roommate, let alone one whose well-being I’m responsible for, is a big change to my normal routine. I’m excited though.