Sunday, February 14, 2010

Keep the Beat

A few weeks ago, I sat among 5,000 people at the funeral for my friend's father, a music icon. The funeral was a spectacular tribute, complete with stirring gospel and R&B music, and no shortage of heart and soul to go around.

I had never in my life attended a funeral where I tapped my foot along to the music, smiled at the person sitting next to me, or felt so inspired. I sang along to "This Little Light of Mine" with two hundred joyful people in the church choir.

They had spunk.

Exuded spirit.

The congregation knew how to celebrate a life and how to give a proper send-off.

When the charismatic reverend reflected on the long successful career of the dearly departed, Teddy Pendergrass, he spoke of the early days, long before superstardom, when Teddy played drums for Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.

"He played the beat for someone else!" the reverend shouted. "Imagine that!" The reverend imitated a drummer tapping a drum with his sticks. There were several dozen 'Hallelujahs" and a couple hundred "Amens."

"Let me saaaaaaaaay it again! He kept the BEAT for SOMEONE ELSE!" The middle aged reverend jumped up and down wildly at the pulpit, while the crowd roared.

"Now let me ask you, how many of YOU keep the beat for someone else... so that THEY might shine?"

I thought about how many people in my life have kept the beat for me; all of the people who continue to keep the beat for me. And I thought about the people for whom I have kept the beat and for whom I continue to keep the beat.

On this day of love, and the days to come, I am going to remember Teddy Pendergrass and the incredible gifts he gave to the world.

And I'm going to remember to keep the beat. For my husband. For my son. For my parents. For my friends. For my lonely neighbor. For the child I have not yet met who needs an advocate. For children in Haiti. For people around the corner and around the world.

What could be a better Valentine's Day gift to the ones we love than simply to keep the beat?

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