The Pilgrim and the Politician

A man begins a pilgrimage to Rome in Canterbury, England, and eventually arrives at the Hospice of Grand St. Bernard. As he walks, he carries 88 years of joy, sorrow, and a rather large backpack on his back.

Traveling from Bern to the Hospice of Grand St. Bernard is another man, who is also on a journey. As he makes his way, he carries the arrival of a new baby and the weight of his country’s future on his back.

Pilgrims walk for different reasons. Our pilgrim walked, but he did not know why. He only knew he was called to walk and was uninterested in “why.” Politicians attend events for a myriad of reasons. Our politician attended an event in late June because he knew he should be there. He didn’t pay much attention to “why.” Both men were answering a call.

Nationality separated them. Language separated them. Normal, everyday differences separated them.

Why did Brian walk? Why did Christophe attend that concert?

Perhaps one of the many reasons Brian walked and Christophe attended that concert could be this blog post and the mere fact that you are reading it.

It’s 2014 and we can be jaded and cynical. Most of us see politicians as untouchable and most of us do not pay any attention to pilgrims. A politician would never waste his time talking to a pilgrim and they certainly would not be at the same event because politicians go to fancy places and pilgrims do not.

Wrong.

There are still places in this world that transcend language, nationality, age, religious beliefs, socio-economic differences. There are still places that bring people together for a common purpose, known or yet unknown. There are still places where two men from completely different walks of life can be brought together to share things – ideas, music, Raclette. There are places where the sting of cynicism is made weak.

We have to treasure these places and nourish them. We must feed them with our time, with our resources, and with our very best intentions. We have to look at these places as true sanctuaries because that is what they are.

They are places where the shoes on your feet do not matter. They are places where the color of your hair, your skin, your coat…none of it matters. They are places where a pilgrim and a politician are both seen as exactly what they are:  God’s children – truly equal and worthy of unconditional love and acceptance.

We must give our best to these places and the people walking into them. Both are deserving of our adoration.

I could say many things about the pilgrim and the politician. They are two of the finest men I have met in a very long time. It is not the point. The point is much simpler than that.

There is a place on the border between Switzerland and Italy where a pilgrim and a politician sat together and shared an important life moment.

That place is the Hospice of Grand St. Bernard.

You should go there and give it your best. If you cannot go there, you can still give it your best.

Donate 5 dollars, 10 Euro, 20 CHF, or 100,000£. What is your best? Give that.

Hospice du Gd-St-Bernard – 1946 Bourg-St-Pierre – Suisse
Union de Banque Suisse – 1920 Martigny
IBAN        CH50 0026 4264 6946 8001 X
BIC          UBSWCHZH80A

If we don’t give these places our best, how can this happen?

The Pilgrim and the Politician
The Pilgrim and the Politician

 

 

Allerseelen by Strauss

Former President George H. W. Bush had good, practical advice about public speaking under emotionally-challenging circumstances. When he had to speak at the funeral once, he read the speech over and over again, attempting to pull the emotional attachment out of the words. When I heard that story, I thought it was a good idea, but not particularly brave (no disrespect). I think it’s a hell of a lot braver to be real and real people get choked up.

There was a song on my concert last week called “Allerseelen.” It’s about a couple and they have clearly been through the ringer (By the way, what this story is not about…is a dead person…and somewhere in Steiermark, a dashing, white-haired German poet is screaming, “ENDLICH.”):

Put the flowers on the table and let’s talk about love, like we used to. Give me your hand, I’ll hold it in secret. If someone sees? I don’t give a damn! Give me just one more of your sweet looks. Everything is new and fresh again – there is one day every year when even the dead come back to life – come back to me! I need you back, my love! The way we used to be. How we used to be.

Any smart singer in my situation would avoid this song like the plague. I have rarely performed it in public since 2011 without crying a little bit because it reminds me of, well, my own “sweet look”er. When I began preparation for the Hospice benefit, I found it in my “old recitals” folder. “Allerseelen” is my song. It is set by Strauss (who writes for my voice type), it is in German (liebe the German), text is amazing (I’m a nerd) and it has breathtaking piano & vocal marriage.

If the concert in honor of the Hospice was going to be my best, I needed to sing it. My “sweet look”er has never attended one of my concerts and doesn’t particularly like opera anyway. If I did cry, it would be minimal and not ugly Oprah cry (with snot). The song went on the program. Easy.

Nope. In the telenovela that is my life, my “sweet look”er would attend the concert and stand in my eye line throughout the entire concert, including during “Allerseelen,” which I was singing to him, though he didn’t know it and thankfully never will because he never reads this blog.

Papa Bush is right. It is hard to sing or speak when you cry or when you are seriously attached to the text (in an emotional way). It might make the message more about you and less about the message.

But, for my “sweet look”er and the hell we have been put through? Well, it was worth that tear, that lump in the throat possibly coming in. It wasn’t easy for him to come to the concert and it wasn’t easy for me to sing (see previous post). We were both brave last Sunday and the result is that I didn’t cry during “Allerseelen” because it was our song and I was singing it to him. It wasn’t sad, it was beautiful.

Ein Tag im Jahr ist ja den Toten frei, komm an mein Herz, dass ich dich wieder habe, wie einst im Mai.

Wie einst im Mai, indeed.

 

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