Friday, September 16, 2011

The Kindness of Strangers

Last weekend I was in Massachusetts for my friend's funeral.  Everything about those three days was amazing and inspiring.  I'll write about that in another post.  Today, I want to reflect on the kindness of a stranger that I observed on the second leg of my journey home.  In order to be able to afford the trip, I had to settle for a round about trip home with two plane changes and a 9 1/2 hour trip (as opposed to the 5 1/3 hour non-stop trip I usually try to get).  

The Boston to Dulles flight went smoothly, but the Dulles to Houston leg was challenging because there was a young mother in front of me with two very young boys who cried and fussed the entire time.  Finally a lady sitting behind me went up and asked the man sitting next to the mother to change places with her and she spent the last half of the flight entertaining the older of the two while the mother worked at calming the baby down.  I'm sure his ears were bothering him and he had no idea what to do about it.  

I thought that lady was an angel.  She even helped the mother off the plane and at the baggage claim...  Everyone else was blessing her, too, as the plane wasn't as noisy once she sat down and started her magic with the little boy.  That was one of the most thoughtful gestures I've seen in a long time.  

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Relative humidity

It's a strange place I live in when 95 degrees in the shade seems like "cool" weather, comfortable enough to do vigorous garden work!  Of course it's all relative.  Because the humidity is also incredibly low, I barely broke a sweat this morning as I scrubbed the algae off my little patio fountain--after chasing away the salamanders that like to hide underneath.

Months of 95+ weather here (in Phoenix), would be disastrous in New England.  The 30+ days we've had of 110 degrees and as high as 117 degrees would be impossible to bear there.  But here, we have soldiered on through the over-the-top heat.  My gardens have suffered.  I threw away several withered up plants today that succumbed.  I will start over again in a few weeks when the temperatures are down to stay for awhile.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

My Story, My Song

This is my story, this is my song.
Praising my Savior all the day long.
This is my story, this is my song.
Praising my Savior all the day long. 

If anyone ever embodied the meaning of this beloved hymn, literally, it was my friend Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse.  I say "friend" because she truly was my friend, although many years older than I, and many times more gifted and talented and beloved than I could ever hope to be.  We were not equals in sense of the word . . . except in purpose and mission.  Her mission, her passion, was to bring God to the world through music.  Classical music.  It was there, through this medium of music, that we met.  It sounded like heaven.  It was there, through this ministry of music, that she and thousands met.  And it is there, because of her ministry in music, that we will meet again someday.  Founder and director of the New England Youth Ensemble, Virginia-Gene was a force to reckon with.  A legend.  An icon.  A difference-maker.  A mentor and friend.

Virginia-Gene Shankel Rittenhouse
Tuesday morning, a tsunami wave of enormous proportions swept over the musical world, leaving hundreds of musicians, young and old, bereft of their leader and mentor.  As the word got out that Virginia-Gene had passed to her rest, we began to reach out to each other, through Facebook and other means, to comfort and to share.  There are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of stories of how she brought kids together to play music and took them around the world to praise God.  We could tell stories by the hundreds--stories of the crazy experiences...and yes, miracles...that occurred on tour.  Tales of sleepless nights, bus breakdowns, lost passports, border crossings, sunstroke, buckets of granola, apple crisp, 5 concerts in a day, and lives touched.  And then there were her stories!  She was an amazing story-teller!  You've not heard stories until you've heard her tell one...

The Ensemble in 1975. 
I am struggling to find the words to express the difference she made.  I don't think it's possible.  You can read about her here, but unless you spent time with her, unless you saw her at her highest as well as her lowest, you can't begin to understand what it meant to have her in your life, however briefly.  She made her mark the first time you met her.  And if you were lucky enough to tour with her, even once, never mind over and over, your life was never the same.  And you were part of the Ensemble family forever.  That in itself is a gift.  We are coming together again this week, through Facebook, and over the next several weeks at various Life Celebrations.  We will be sharing our memories, sharing our loss and our appreciation for the gift she gave each of us.  This world will not be the same without her, but we have the hope and promise of seeing her again in the world made new.  That blessed assurance was hers.  That, above all, was her story and her song.  And it is ours in no small measure because of her.