The Power of Our Reveling in a Changing World

A post by Jo Rasi, Community Engagement Director
June 27, 2019

All of us who consider ourselves Revelers probably enjoy singing and sharing songs with others. We may all love the sense of community we’ve created. And we know what it is to be in the midst of a moment of collective joy. Recently, as Community Engagement Director, I’ve been thinking about those four elements of Reveling (singing, sharing songs, a sense of community, and collective joy).

Some days it feels a bit rough out there in the world. We’re lucky we can gather with folks we love to soothe and inspire our souls with song. But with all the grief in the news, I’m wondering how a Reveler can help. How can we sing for, and with, people who aren’t singing with us yet, and who might really need our songs?

So we’ve introduced Revels Day of Service, when we partner with a host of other organizations (current partners include So Others Might Eat, Montgomery College, Carpe Diem Arts, and RefAmerica) with the goal of locating folks whose lives might have more challenges and fewer Reveling moments. And then we invite them to Revel with us! Singing with Revelers in assisted living facilities and homeless shelters is a whole other level of inspiring.

This past month, while singing through three lunch shifts at So Others Might Eat, we Reveled with people who aren’t likely to come find us at Lisner, or in the Revels Studio Space, or at Seekers Church in Takoma DC. The list of roadblocks they face is pretty huge — access to funds, to transportation, and even to the methods we use to find community (the web, listservs, friends and family). So even if they believe song would bring them hope or make them stronger, they aren’t likely to find a way to sing with us.

So we go to them. And this is what is really at the heart of Reveling — not just singing with or for people who have access to singing — it’s really the joy of touching the people who need it most. That’s when we really shine. That’s how we really become part of the necessary force for change. That’s how we can possibly help.

At SOME, we had people who cried. Who said they hadn’t heard these songs since they were children. Who said they hadn’t been able to sing for years. Who said they missed the choirs they joined when their lives were different. We had people who sang their first harmonies ever with us, and whose eyes sparkled as though they’d been handed a gift, or a second chance. We held people inside of our songs, we nurtured them, we gave them hope, we told them they mattered.

I can’t include a photo of the SOME singing — we weren’t allowed to take photos. So please, close your eyes and picture Revelers, arm-in-arm with a lunch guest who left his plate in order to stand and sing “Amazing Grace” with us. Now add in additional lunch guests who then joined our semicircle. Just inside the bottom of the frame — do you see the end of the lunch table? That elderly man and that young man are singing. One has his eyes closed. The other has tears streaming down his face. I hope you can see my picture. I’ve been revisiting it in my mind every day. I think we made a difference.

We held their hands. We laughed together. And in one simple three-hour period, we sang with people who need someone to care.

It was a similar timespan as one performance of The Christmas Revels. And though the audience was one-quarter the size, the collective joy in the room felt as significant and beautiful as the “Lord of the Dance” at the end of Part One. It felt like “Dona Nobis Pacem” in three parts across a theater full of ticket buyers. It felt like the best kind of Reveling. We may not feel we have power to affect change, but we have the power to create joy for people whose own sense of power in the world may be very small:

“Hello, friend. Welcome to Revels. You matter so much to me. Let’s sing together.”

You can make a difference at a Revels Day of Service, whether singing, painting a bowl, chatting, or just being there to smile. Please bring your Revels joy and join us for our next monthly Day of Service on August 5th.

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