This past Sunday, I watched the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's weekly broadcast, "Music and the Spoken Word." I've always had a powerful connection to music. I sing it, play it, hum it, listen to it, and occasionally even write it. Music inspires me, comforts me, and evokes strong memories for me. But my ears were not the conduit for the message I was to receive this day.
The television cameras focused frequently on those singers in the middle of the 350-member choir, especially at the seam where women and men stood shoulder to shoulder, the animated figure of their conductor superimposed over the junction of blue gowns and black suits. But on one sweep of the cameras, I noticed several choir members on the outermost edge of the upper row. As I considered their relative distance from the limelight--so to speak--it struck me that these choir members on the selvage of the chorale are just as vital to the group as those placed front and center. Their contributions are no less important, meaningful, or substantial, just because they are not always as visible.
This experience brought to my mind a poem by Carol Lynn Pearson titled "The Cast". I typed a copy of it onto a 3 x 5 index card close to 40 years ago, using my mother's old manual typewriter. (Most of the people who may read this have probably never even used an electric typewriter, much less its predecessor!) I still carry that card with me in my scriptures. Here's the poem:
"I lost the starring part in Our Town to Linda, a girl not half as good as me, who kept her eyes down for the whole tryout, and even stuttered.
"When the cast was posted and the high school drama coach saw me reading it through my tears, he put an arm around me and said, 'Now look--things are not always as they appear. This is not Broadway. It's an educational institution. We're here for two reasons: to put on a show and, more important, to help people grow. Someday you'll see.'
"So Linda played Emily, and she didn't even stutter. And I was third woman at the wedding, watching and wondering how he knew what she could really do if she had the chance.
"Since then I have guessed that God, being a whole lot smarter than my high school drama coach, might be offstage sometimes with an arm around a questioning cast: 'Now don't try to outguess me. Sometimes the first shall be last and the last shall be first. And I've got my own reasons. I need some strong ones to star and some strong ones to stand back. And I'm going to put out front some you might not choose. But you'll see what they can really do when they have the chance. Mortality is an educational institution. We've got to put on the show and too, we've got to help people grow.'
"As I walk through the scenes, watch the costumes move, and listen to the lines of the powerful, the weak, the rich, the poor; I look at the leads with less awe than most, and at the spear-carriers with more.'"
So the next time you're doubting your contribution, your role, your impact or your value, I hope you'll think of those singers in the last seats of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Your voice too is needed; keep on singing!