Ode to Joy

As I am typing this, a neighbour's daughter is in my living room, learning to play Ode to Joy on her school guitar.

She started this process in September, and tonight, she is struggling a bit. The base line, she tells me, moves notes unpredictably, and she just can't seem to get the hang of this song. The strings make awkward notes, and her fingers hurt from uncomfortable and unfamiliar movements.

It sounds funny, she says. Small and tin-ny and lacking something. She is one small instrument and not so practiced either. It does not help that there are no words, and only the music for one instrument. She cannot get a sense of timing or syncopation, and me trying to sing along is not helping.

She does not know of Beethoven, of towering cathedrals that require a great amount of music to fill them. She has never stood at a funeral for a much beloved lady, who brought such joy to the world. We sang her Ode to Joy, to speed her way home to our Father. We sang of joy to remind others, and ourselves, of the joy that is in this world, even in the midst of death and sorrow. We sang the hymn to remind ourselves that there is joy that outlives death, that death is not the end, and the promise and power of Resurrection is stronger. She does not know that there is a set of words that are different from the "Joyful, Joyful we adore thee" set that many of us know. That the old lyrics are poetry and power.

I don't play at all, but I want her to understand something of the power of the song. I cannot bring her to that funeral, but I want to reach into the soul of a 15 year old young woman, a young woman who is wholly remarkable and smart and kind and funny, and on the cusp of being a woman. A young woman who, as a result of a stupid and senseless and tragic accident had to say good-bye to her father long before she should have.

I want her to understand something of resiliency, of courage and strength. Characteristics that will serve her in her life, but are taught in the process of learning to play a piece of music. I want her to understand that even when you are only a small instrument, you play with all your heart, and somehow the creator of the universe plugs you into his world, and your tune is larger and louder and carries more weight.

And so I dig - into my CD collection first, and then on iTunes and I find her a copy of it - the entire Red Army Choir, singing the song.

I tell her to sit, and I turn it up.

She listens, and nods.

Out of the corner of my eye, I watch her, again picking at her guitar strings. Plugging back in.