I have learned “having regrets” is a waste of time and energy. Other than teaching us not to make the same mistakes again, dwelling on the past impedes us from moving forward. I do have them, far more than I care to recall. It simply does no good to think I can reverse the serious ones or to belabor the ones which did not matter. Changing the past will not alter the destination, it simple changes the road we travel. The words from Don McLean’s “Crossroads” say it best.
“So there’s no need for turning back
‘Cause all roads lead to where I stand.
And I believe I’ll walk them all
No matter what I may have planned.”
Still I wonder what would I change if I could? I wished I had turned my life to Jesus years earlier. Yet the roads I journeyed led to him anyway, so it is not “when” I found Jesus, simply that I did.
Truthfully the one regret I would change was to have acquired some musical knowledge or skill. Now most would say I still can learn; age does not restrict musical growth. Trust me, I have struggled with the strings of a guitar and the intricate windpipes of a harmonica. Both my wife and daughter have labored vainly in teaching me the meaning of odd-shaped figures on lines of paper. My mind, lips and fingers have rejected these contrivances, like a demon flees from Jesus. If I had simply paid attention in Mr. Griffith’s 7th grade music class, perhaps I would have learned enough about music to use it more effectively in my ministry.
I blame my mother for this. Unlike most Moms who encourage their children toward music, she hammered into her three boys that no Albers or Mahoney ever had any musical skills. Notwithstanding that her own uncle was National Fiddlers Champ twice! Still, my older brother taught himself the banjo and my middle brother, inspired by Al Hirt, learned the trumpet. My own plans were toward great adventures and splendid explorations into the wild places of this world. I saw no sense in dragging a piano into Africa’s savannahs. So, music was not part of my grand plan and I attended Mr. Griffith’s 7th grade music class reluctantly.
I mention Mr. Griffith because he is one of those teachers who I have an indelible memory of. Mr. Griffith (I never knew his first name) was probably younger than I am now yet to my adolescent eyes he seemed as old as Methuselah. He was a small wiry man, deeply patriotic and spoke with the righteous morality of an Old Testament prophet. Occasionally he would get into a diatribe and, rather than make us sing, lectured us on the immorality of youthful indulgence. These sermons occurred after acts of vandalism in our small community. I suspect that some of my classmates committed the vandalism just so they could sit in his class and hear his thunderous scolding the next day.
It seems he had been teaching in the same music room since colonial times and I often wondered if he ever left but simply lived among the drums and baritone horns. Seventh grade music was required so every student who filed through the hallowed halls of that institution experienced Mr. Griffith’s authoritarian tutelage. During that year he taught 4 songs, 2 for each semester. I forget 3 of them, most likely patriotic songs. The one I do remember was hammered into my brain and still resides there as permanently as the Lord’s Prayer and the Oscar Meyer Weiner song. The tune “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (also called “When You Walk Through a Storm”) was taught to every pupil during Mr. Griffith’s long tenure, including my two brothers. I am sure that if generations of students were gathered today, we could sing it flawlessly.
Of course, for us it was a silly song, archaic and old-fashioned. It was irrelevant compared to the weighty and evocative music of the mid 60’s, songs such as “Paint it Black”, “Monday, Monday”, “Homeward Bound”, Hey, Hey I’m a Monkee” and “These Boots Were Made For Walking”.
Away from the classroom we poked fun at it. Loudly sang it in a falsetto operatic style and changed the words to ones I cannot use in this article.
A funny thing has happened. Last spring, as the coronavirus disrupted our lives, I came across a version of this song by the British rock group Gerry and the Pacemakers. Had Mr. Griffith heard this he would have denounced it as subversive and corruptive. We would have thought it cool. Apparently, it was a bigger hit in Europe than America because I do not remember it. If I had it may have changed my attitude towards music and I would not have this one lingering regret. Or maybe not.
The whole point of my rambling is that a song I once considered silly and archaic has become a solace which guides me through this difficult pandemic. Perhaps it was for Mr. Griffith as well who experienced the Great Depression and the Second World War. He taught it to innocent youth who knew nothing of the real troubles of this world, in hope that someday we would understand the meaning of the song.
The lyrics remind me of Jesus asleep in the bow of the boat during a terrible storm. The fishermen had no hope to survive and feared for their lives. “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25)
It reminds me that the storm will pass. Fear is not diminished, but with “hope in our hearts” it has no hold on us. When the sea had been calmed, the small boat sailed through the night towards its destination. As this year draws to a close, we are still in the midst of a storm and the long night hides the dawn. Till the rising Son overcomes the storm, we need to look for the light of hope in the darkness.
Perhaps Mr. Griffith understood that the words of this song, though outdated and sentimental would someday bring hope to at least one young boy. I hope it does for others as well.
Click on the link to view You’ll Never Walk Alone