(This week is the 22ndinstallment of the book, “The Band Director’s Lessons About Life”, which TCRN is publishing as a series during 2020. This week, band director and spiritual author Donald Lee relates a parable about joy. For a complete listing of previous episodes in this series, click here.)
fun The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.
(Eighteenth-century French writer)
“Mr. Lee, you’re not really going to dress up, are you?” Sharon sounded terrified.
“Of course! It’ll be great fun,” I confirmed.
“I’ll be so embarrassed I won’t be able to play,” she said.
The senior band was working on a medley of tunes from Star Wars for an upcoming performance at an elementary school. With my plastic Walmart lightsaber and my “costume,” I was supposed to look like a Jedi Knight, but I really looked more like an Ewok. It was an old shepherd’s costume from the nativity pageants my wife used to stage on our front lawn. We had a bunch of them that came from the church—old altar-server outfits the parish was throwing out. My wife wouldn’t let them be thrown away—she invented recycling. She was into “re-use” when we still called it “refuse.”
So, looking like a recycled Ewok and brandishing a plastic lightsaber as a conducting baton, I was all set to motivate the elementary school kids to join band. Conducting with a lightsaber is a bit like doing open-heart surgery with a splitting ax—some of the finesse is lost. But my silly antics would take the little kids’ minds off their task of being critical listeners.
My band students realized they couldn’t make me “normal,” but they tried to gently bring me around to their way of thinking.
“Mr. Lee, I think the music would sound just as good without the costume,” Alfie offered.
“Yeah, it’s really about the music. Isn’t that what you always tell us?” chimed in Wendy.
“Nice try, guys. Our goal is to inspire the younger kids to join band when they come to Glenmary School. We want them to know how much fun it is! It’s fun, right?”
Cue the muffled sounds of forced consent. For a hard-nosed, “take the music seriously” band director like me, it’s hard to find the right work/play balance. When I want to work, the students think I’m too hard. When I want to play, they think I’m ridiculous. But I boldly forged ahead with that old “damn the torpedoes” attitude.
Our concert for the elementary school went well. I had the elementary music teacher introduce the Star Wars piece while I ducked into a closet to transform myself into a Jedi/Ewok. Then I burst forth into the gym with my lightsaber buzzing, whooaaum, whooaauum, and waved it threateningly at the startled kindergarteners in the front row. They were properly awed. The older kids at the back of the gym stood up to get a better view.
After building the “shock and awe” a bit too long, I turned to the band and started them on the unmistakable “Dah daaah, da-da-da dah daaah.” Once the band got started, I left them to demonstrate their musical independence while I wandered around the gym some more—trying to act cool and menacing in my Jedi Knight “I’ve got the lightsaber and you don’t” costume.
Sometimes you just need to have a little fun—and bring joy to those around you. Many of those kids remembered it. Even years later, kids would occasionally come up to me at odd places around town and say, “You’re the music teacher. You came to our school and played Star Wars.” Naturally, the band students themselves had good memories of it all. It’s the same way we nostalgically look back and laugh at things that infuriated us, even hurt us, years ago. It really was fun at the time—we just needed the distance of years to appreciate the humor of it.
Most kids are too cool to be joyful, and most adults are too serious. A few old people become frivolous again because, what the heck, at our age we can get away with it. But most have forgotten how to be joyful—or think it’s undignified. In truth, joy is the sign of God’s presence. When you are filled with Love—immersed in the Consciousness of Love—you are just so happy you can’t contain it. It overflows from you and touches all you meet. Complete joy. That’s what Jesus wants for us. He said, “I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete” (Jn 15:11).
When we are joyful, everything in our spirit, mind, and body works better. Research tells us that when we are joyful, we are relaxed, our minds learn better, we perform tasks better, we are more creative, we are more connected to others, and our bodies function better. The list goes on and on. joyful should be our natural state.
We are joyful regardless of the constant tragedies in our lives and in the world. We are joyful not because our lives are perfect but because it is a state of consciousness we choose to cultivate. You don’t need a lightsaber and a silly costume, but then again, it might not hurt.
Joy is a sign of God’s presence. Allow joy to fill your life.
Donald Lee is a spiritual author and speaker. This article is part of a weekly series for 2020 in which TCRN is publishing his inspirational book, The Band Director’s Lessons About Life: Volume 1 – 50 Parables on Life’s Performance Cycle, in serial form – one parable per week. You can learn more about the author at his website: www.ComingHomeSpirit.com, or order a copy of his complete book on Amazon, or get his free mini eBook and sign up for his weekly blog. Follow Donald on Facebook.