Sunday, May 20, 2007

On Wednesday, all of the staff at work were required to meet in our teleconferencing room to participate in an all-staff strategy meeting with HQ on the west coast and the other sites like us around the country. As usual, “all-staff” turned out to be 6 or 7 of the 30 or so staff, all of whom are in their mid-twenties. Apparently, once you get old, you must just be too busy to attend these kinds of things.

I was cranked up in full-on cynical mode from some of the frustrating work I was doing plus I had missed lunch and was trying to eat my warmed-up pizza as the meeting started. This meant that I did not sit in the rows of chairs directly in front of the teleconferencing station, but sat to the side at one of the conference tables. I sat quietly for a little while, but because I work for an Evangelical organization, there was a little worship time before the meeting actually got started. We had the lyrics to several songs stapled to the top of our agenda packets. A man and a guitar stood on the stage on our TV. Next to him was a folk-singer-looking woman, obviously there to sing the harmonies.

So, here we are, 6-7 people from the generation that come after Generation X, watching TV. The TV tells us that we’re supposed to stand up and sing along with the group of adults that we can see from the TV are beginning to stand up to join the man, the guitar and the long-haired woman with glasses and no make-up.

My colleagues were visibly perplexed about what the cool thing to do was. I think that most of us thought it would be nice to sing some of the songs but without a big group around us that we could feel anonymous within, no one wanted to be the person who actually drew attention to himself by singing out loud.

I thought it would be nice, too. The first two songs were traditional hymns and I’m a sucker for those. However, I was feeling particularly tetchy and would have to stop eating my lunch and then the man with the guitar said, “Let’s worship the Lord!” just like a camp counselor might say, “Let’s make some lanyards!” Perfect iambic enthusiasm, with the emphasis on “wor” and “Lord.” Duh DAH duh duh DAH.

At moments like these, my mother cringes on my behalf because I lose any filter on my mouth that I might once have had.

I said, “That’s my nightmare of worship.” Then I mimicked and mocked the poor man a little.

Then, I turned back to my pizza, tucked into its deep Tupperware cradle.

When I looked up from my pizza again several moments later, I realized that the earlier discomfort of my peers had resolved itself into a fully tense quiet, with no one looking at anyone else and each person escaping into watching the TV. As I paid a little more attention, I realized that a few of them were singing along under their breath. It was barely audible and I couldn’t even pinpoint who it was. Their lips weren’t moving.

I felt terrible.

You see, I forget that I'm a leader. I spent so much of my life being bossy that my internal identity of myself is as someone who doesn't have that much influence because she's annoying. I have spent the last 10 years attempting to temper the neediness that caused me to be so controlling and bitchy and to develop skills that allow me to actually communicate and persuade people. I've done a fairly good job in that transformation, but that doesn't counteract a childhood self-image of being ignored, taunted and ineffectual.

But the reality is that at work, I guess I'm a little bit like Arthur Fonzerelli. When I communicated with my joke that singing along wasn't cool, no one wanted to disagree with me. However, since my co-workers are more intelligent and complicated than Potsy and Ralph Malph, they didn't agree with me blindly, just altered their execution of their own wishes.

I felt terrible.

So, when I realized what was going on, I pushed aside my pizza, and as the first song was concluding, announced loudly, "I don't know the third song, but I really like this next one. I'm going to sing it loudly." I was hoping they would question and mock my rediculous statement about the third song to help break some of the tension and that's what happened.

And then we sang. I sing soprano melody. The people on TV both sang harmony, which made it a little tricky to find the key but we managed. One or two folks in our room also sang melody, which was really fun to combine with.

I felt better.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

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