“Someone’s crying, Lord, Kumbaya
There are songs I grew up with in church that will forever bring me peace. Several years ago, I wrote about another one: Let There Be Peace On Earth, (October 8th, 2017) because its message is timeless.
While the lyrics in Kumbaya are very simple and repetitive, its meaning is believed to be simple, as well as profound: Come By Here, Lord. It’s pidgin English roots would suggest the song title from the meaning.
Kumbaya, it has come to my attention, has a different meaning socially and politically. It seems this word has been adopted for use in a lighter, perhaps even in a sarcastic or disparaging fashion.
I am deep in the middle of a mammoth writing project. When it is finished, the book will tell the story of an amazing man whose resilience will inspire you, just as I have been inspired by him. He has immeasurable life experience, and lately, our discussions relate to the current state of our country, and our world.
“We can’t just sit around the campfire singing ‘Kumbaya,’ and hope for all this to go away,” he said to me a few months ago. I knew what he meant, and I had heard ‘kumbaya’ used that way before, but being the word nerd I am, I wanted to know the exact meaning when it is used in this manner.
“Naively optimistic,” said one online source.
“False moralizing, hypocrisy, cockeyed optimism,” read another.
“It once represented strength and power in togetherness and harmony, but it has come to reflect weakness,” yet another source reported.
“Kumbaya” is believed to have originated as an African-American spiritual song in the 1920’s as a cry to God for help from oppressed people suffering under the Jim Crow regime of lynch mobs and sharecropping. It’s origins, then, certainly justify its original meaning.
I don’t profess to know much about politics–national, or international. I know enough to know that what we are doing now isn’t working. The divisiveness and discord in our country are unprecedented in our lifetimes, and, as the comic Lily Tomlin states, it appears that “things are going to get a whole lot worse before they get worse.”
An Average Jane citizen like myself cannot change things, neither can you. Unless, as my writing subject did point out to me, one person can indeed change the world. Maybe not directly, but because we reap what we sow, then we must believe our actions–both good and bad–are capable of beginning the ripple effect.
Perhaps naively, perhaps with cockeyed optimism, I am choosing to believe we can indeed hope for a better future. That is, if I use my powers for good and not evil, and you do the same. We all have the same free will. We all have the power to choose.
The sun came up again this morning. It will very likely come up again tomorrow morning. We can count on this renewal, this daily reset to remind us that time goes on, and that bad times never last forever. Where I live, on top of this daily promise, God has been showing off again. I took a picture of the sunrise a few mornings ago from my porch, and I tried my best to capture the beauty:
And, as a bonus, the sunsets here in Kansas, too, are proof of hope, proof of something bigger than all of us; proof of the beauty all around us if we choose to see it:
I swear I was watching the road…I simply held up my phone, didn’t look and hoped for the best. And it was absolutely glorious. This was the sunset the day after the sunrise pictured above.
In nearly all situations, it is best to listen to one’s mother. I still listen to mine, especially her last wish: that her children would live their lives by the Prayer of Saint Francis. Make me an instrument of peace, it begins. Me, not everyone else. Me, in every action great and small. Me, as one who can start a ripple. You, too. We all have that power to create peace. (Peace, Sister July 16th, 2017).
So listen to our mother, and your mother would likely agree from here on earth, or from Above.
When I begin treatment with my speech therapy patients, I make sure they understand their most important qualification for therapy: they must have a sense of optimism about their potential for improvement. We may not be able to return them to their prior level, but we will both work hard to improve their abilities, and we will both remain positive about their potential. Without it, both of us are wasting our time.
The indomitable Helen Keller summed this up perfectly: “No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.“
I know that naive optimism, “kumbaya,” will not make our world’s problems go away. But educated, dedicated, hardworking optimism is the only mindset that will bring about positive change. I believe in the God-given ability to create a better country and a better world, but each of us must do our part.
The gentleman who is the subject of my book subject summed it up best: “If it is to be, it is up to me.”
“Someone’s singing, Lord, Kumbaya.”