Chair Person… November 6, 2012

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Here’s how it works.

With the present condition of my lower limbs, I basically divide my life into two segments. For short efforts, jaunts or tiny toddles, I get up on my pins and hobble along, trying to maintain as much of a stride as humanly possible, to exercise those muscles and let those joints know that we haven’t settled next to a pool in Boca Raton. For longer distances, shopping excursions and moments when I am not sure where I’m heading, I opt for the wheelchair. It’s a pretty good system–especially when you consider that it’s the only one available.

So last night when Janet and I took the stage and I rolled up to the front to our set, I discovered there was a dear lady also in a wheel chair, sitting close to where I would dismount from mine, to assume the piano bench. So I rolled up next to her–similar to being in a gridlock on a San Francisco freeway–and we had a moment of delightful eye contact. Then I eased out of the chair and onto my musical perch. She was not more than four feet away from me.

She was a chair person.

It’s a title we normally grant to someone in charge of a meeting, so that is why it’s so applicable, because this dear soul was in charge. All through the presentation, she whispered her approval, appreciation, encouragement, joy and admiration. I think some of her friends and other members of the audience privately desired that she remain a little more quiet. (*Isn’t it interesting that “normal” people always want to stifle what they consider to be extreme outbursts of praise? It happened at the triumphal entry of Jesus and it occurs every day when we all become more concerned about being “civilized” than appreciative.)

There are seven steps involved in being successful at what I do. I honestly don’t think this would be much different in any occupation, but I could be wrong, as I often am just to confirm my status in the great race.

The first step is always overcoming disappointment. After all these years of travel and experience, conventional wisdom might say that I should be performing to packed houses. They rarely are. I normally receive a congregation that consists of the chosen few minus those who have previous plans or a great excuse for absence. It doesn’t bother me. It really doesn’t. Usually it is of more concern to the sponsor, who is horrified that his or her efforts rendered such a trickle. We have to be careful about disappointment–it often can be arrogance wearing a mask of piety.

The second step, for me, is being grateful for each and every face that has come out to beam in my presence. Many of them don’t smile at first because it is too heavy a commitment. I am patient.I can’t expect them to grin at me in approval simply based on my comely features.

Which leads me to the third step, which is finding a door. Yes, all of us human beings have a door–and it’s somewhere near our hearts. Trying to communicate to human beings on a spiritual level is comical. They are preconditioned to throw their religious attitudes your way and block any attempts at revision. Coming at them from a mental angle can be baffling, both to me and to them. I talk about human things in a human way to human beings seeking out human answers. It’s a great door.

And when I finally find that door, I get to my fourth step–I always try to enter with love. God does not give me permission to be a grouchy, fussy bigot to His children. If I can’t encourage, edify and exhort people, my best profile is to shut the hell up. I try to find a way to love everybody in the room. (It’s made so much easier when I have my fellow-chair-person not four feet away from me, leading the charge for acceptance and inclusion. She was precious.)

After I enter with love, the fifth step is to be patient and wait for those who are drawn to me and feel they might benefit by rubbing up against my spirit. There is nothing more intrusive than insisting that you’re right and deciding for other people that they need what you’ve got. They will find you. It’s why you must let some people leave your presence hurriedly–almost rudely–because there is absolutely nothing you can do for them right now.

And when these souls DO show up at my table, my sixth step is to listen. My dear God, they were courteous enough to open their ears for me for an hour–it won’t hurt me to give them sixty seconds or so. After the show, my dear lady who created her own front row of observance came to the table and we chatted for quite a while. Her life has not been easy. The wheel chair is just an outward sign of a life that has been crippled by difficulty. But she was hopeful. She was joyous. She had a great sense of humor. And she even boldly piped up at one point that she thought one of the best things in life was enjoying a Miller Highlife with a bologna sandwich. This might have embarrassed some overhearers, who thought it inappropriate to say such words in God’s house, but since Jesus turned water into wine, I think she was on safe turf. Yes, the sixth step is to listen.

Do I always like what I hear? Of course not. But God hasn’t made me a judge. It isn’t my job to decide who makes it into the camp and who ends up sleeping in the woods. I’ll leave that to the Republicans, Democrats, conservatives and liberals. Don’t ever forget–if you think one group of people is smarter and better than another, you’re just a bigot. You may be a well-educated one, but it doesn’t mean you’re any prettier.

Finally, the seventh step in my journey on any given night is to leave humbly. For naked I came into this world and in a similar unclothed fashion I will depart. My strength is not in my talent or my spirituality, but rather, in my humanity.

I am a chair person.

Right now I am rolled in, to roll out what I have. Last night I met another chair person. She lives that way all the time and still loves being alive.

I can recommend this seven-step process. Shall we review?

  • Step One: overcome disappointment.
  • Step Two: Be grateful for what is set before you.
  • Step Three: Find a door.
  • Step Four: Enter with love.
  • Step Five: Wait for those who are drawn to you.
  • Step Six: Listen to them.
  • Step Seven: Leave humbly.

Much thanks to the folks in Brookville, Ohio. Much appreciation to my fellow chair person. She confirms that the seat of power is not in how we stand, but rather … in what we feel.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

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