How many times have you sung "Amazing Grace"? When is the last time you ever thought about what the lyrics mean? It's usually played at a swift clip, sung with about as much emotion as "Row Row Row Your Boat" and if the lyrics aren't being read, the words come out as mixed up as most people's un-memorized version of "The Star Spangled Banner".
But one event forever etched the song into my soul's memory, and I no longer can sing or listen to this song without emotion. Picture a woman's prison gymnasium, with an old funky piano somehow situated in a lost corner. This is where it happened.
I used to volunteer at Tennessee Prison for Women for a program called "Better Decisions" . After going through our own training, we each met with one woman prisoner partner for 8 weeks, teaching her a process of making wise decisions which would help her create the life she really wanted rather than the life that ended her up in such a place. Many times we were the only visitors these women usually had, and you can imagine, relationships of trust and friendship were quickly formed. Then we had to completely disconnect, for their own good, as part of empowering them to find answers themselves.
After the 8 weeks, we held a ceremonial "graduation party" for them. At one of them, an impromptu request to sing something before we all had to say goodbye moved me to sit at that old piano and play Amazing Grace. They all took each other's hands... prisoners and volunteers, and while tears rolled, a version was created of "Amazing Grace" that I will never ever forget. And after many years, I ran into one of my fellow volunteers out of nowhere...and she remembered it deeply, too.
Sing every song you perform... from your soul. And if you choose to do this, a warning: Check your own song list. Don't sing anything you CAN'T sing from your soul. There's nothing worse to listen to than fake soul singing.
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