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  • Reverend James Squire

Songs For Nobodies

Too many people are in awe of “stars” or other important individuals that people fall all over to get a moment in their presence. I have seen the film footage of girls having a nervous breakdown when they couldn’t get tickets to a Taylor Swift concert.

Jesse Jackson recited a poem “I am somebody” on Sesame Street in 1971 and at a music festival in LA in 1972. It became a mantra for his PUSH program to elevate black youth. It comes from a poem that was written by the Reverend Williams Holmes Borders in the 50’s when he was a pastor in Atlanta. It is a short poem that repeats phrases such as “I may be on welfare, but I am somebody, my face is different, but I am somebody…I am Black, Brown, or White. I speak a different language. But I must be respected, protected, never rejected. I am God’s child.”

Being somebody has nothing to do with fame for fortune. It has to do with feeling respected, protected, never rejected and being a child of God. It is about having that attitude that promotes that series of feelings. Even though we were “born that way,” as Lada Gaga phrased it, often we need to find that attitude in the context of struggle. It is why we celebrate people like recently deceased Tina Turner overcoming spousal abuse, Rocky overcoming his life’s circumstances to have a taste of victory in the ring, and anyone who rises from the ashes to go from nobody to somebody.

Being somebody has nothing to do, as too many believe, with power or money. It is a “somebody attitude” described so beautifully in that poem. So, what does that attitude look like? What do somebodies know?

Here are some clues to reach that feeling. These clues have to do with an attitude toward life and death.

Jim Carrey stated in an address, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”

John Bogle, founder of the Vanguard Group with 8 trillion dollars in assets, wrote a book called Enough. I had him speak in Chapel to our school community. His book was based on a story: “Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer now dead, and I were at a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island. I said, ‘Joe, how does it make you feel to know our host only yesterday may have made more money than your novel Catch-22 has earned in its entire history?’ And Joe said, ‘I have something he can never have.’ And I said, ‘What could that ever be, Joe?’ And Joe said, ‘The knowledge that I have enough.’ Not bad rest in peace.”

When you are somebody, you feel respected, protected, never rejected, and a child of God, a somebody.

Darrel Sifford, Inquirer columnist, wrote about a somebody’s attitude toward death when he stated, “I never met anyone who on their death bed said, “I should have spent more time at the office.” Somebodies have perspective on what’s truly important in life!

A few weeks ago, Vicki and I went to the Peoples Light and Theater Company. I really didn’t know what we were going to see when we arrived there. She made the plan. When I got to my seat I was surprised when I read the booklet for the show. The title was Songs for Nobodies. We have all been astounded by people who can imitate the voices of others, but only a few can sing the different sounds of Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday and Maria Callas, and their most popular tunes but Bethany Thomas could. You could close your eyes and it was like those singers were on the stage. What a range! What a voice!

But there is more that makes a nobody a somebody. The Director, Rob Lindley writes, “Looking at the title of this piece, there is an implication that this world is made up of Nobodies and Somebodies. Five ordinary women (the nobodies) whose lives have been changed by five legendary singers. And with small encounters and chance meetings they find that they are made of the same stuff. We learn that the bathroom attendant, the spotlight operator, the librarian, the reporter, and the nanny are just as important, as the superstars that change their lives. Not to evoke an old tabloid column, but it turns out they were right: ‘The Stars – They’re Just Like Us.’ The world is full of stars, just as the night sky is (to use the playwright Joanna Murray-Smith’s beautiful words) ‘populated by millions of flickering possibilities.’ It’s a pleasure to explore a piece that invites us all to take the time to really see someone, allow their orbit to pull us in new directions, and explore the multitudes of possibilities right before us each day.”

That is the goal of the play but it is also the mandate that calls us to have those exchanges where nobodies are changed to somebodies, respected, protected, never, rejected, a child of God.

Nothing should give us greater joy in a world that looks up to some and down to others than to treat EVERBODY WHO FEELS THAT THEY ARE NOBODY TO BECOME SOMEBODY, A CHILD OF GOD.

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