Tuesday, December 1, 2009

For December

Here is what I am attempting:
I want to post a Christmas Story for every new day until Christmas. I hope that it might be fun for some of my readers to have a good daily story along with some good Christmas music. It's what I would like, and give said the little stream ---so I'm giving.

I've shared this one before, but I really like it, so it deserves a double-posting. I think it's gotta be one of the best for kicking off these 25 days of the beautiful season we call Christmas.

It's called Amy's Song. The author is unknown. It was recited (by memory, like they did in the old days) by a lady in Flagstaff at last year's Stake Christmas fireside.


"There are advantages and disadvantages to living in a small town. One advantage is that everyone knows everyone else. One disadvantage is that everyone knows everyone else. Everyone knew Amy Williams, only child. She had been born seventeen years ago, crippled in body if not in spirit. No one expected her to live, but she had. Everyone knew Amy Williams. Her hunched back and twisted spine were recognizable at a distance. Here she sat outside the choral room door, agonizing.

What am I doing here? She thought to herself. I’ll never be chosen for a part. One advantage to small towns is that they develop traditions. A Christmas tradition in Marysvale was the annual pageant performed in the school auditorium. It had been performed for so many years that no one could remember when it had begun or even who had written it. But it had become the focal point of the Christmas season for many of the townspeople.

I don’t want to go through the rejection again, thought Amy. I try not to care, but I do. I don’t want to be hurt anymore. More people tried out each year for parts in the pageant than could possibly be used. Young children hoped to be shepherd boys, older ones the shepherds or the Wise Men. Those who sang hoped to be part of the angelic choir; a chosen few, the innkeeper, the angel of the Lord, Joseph, Mary. Many were turned away, for the stage in the old schoolhouse was small. The choir was a dozen or so voices. There was room for only a half dozen shepherds and three wise men.

Mr. Simons will never choose me for a part. I just don’t fit. But at least I don’t have to audition in front of Mrs. Prendergast, mused Amy.

Mrs. Prendergast had been the music teacher at Marysvale High School for more than thirty years. She had cast, coached, directed, and accompanied the pageant all those years. When Amy had been a freshman three years ago, she had tried out for the pageant. Mrs. Prendergast had taken one look at Amy’s misshapen body and in her dragon voice said, “Child, you just don’t fit. I don’t remember anywhere in the script where it calls for a crippled girl.

Everyone would stare at you and that would make you uncomfortable. It would make them uncomfortable, too.”

Without singing a single note, Amy had been thrust back through the choral room door. She shuffled home hurt and humiliated and vowed never to try out again.

Then . . . Mrs. Prendergast retired.

This year they had a new choral teacher, Mr. Simons. He was the opposite of Mrs. Prendergast. She had ruled with fear and force. He led with love and compassion. Amy liked him from the first. He demanded perfection, but understood when it was not reached. He coached and corrected with kindness.

And he sang himself with such power. It was he who had asked Amy to see him after class and had suggested she audition for the pageant. I ought to leave now and avoid the pain. There’s no place for a girl like me in the pageant. I don’t want to be rejected again. Still . . . Mr. Simons asked me to try out. I owe it to him. But he’ll never choose me.

I’m going to leave before it’s my turn. As Amy struggled to her feet, the door was pushed open and Mr. Simons called out, “Amy, you’re next.” He sat at the piano, waiting to accompany her.

When she finished singing, Mr. Simons said, “Thank you, Amy. The list will be posted tomorrow.”

She struggled all night long. Back and forth her mind went between the reality of knowing she didn’t fit and the great need to be accepted. By morning, she had a knot in the pit of her stomach and could not bring herself to look at the list on the choral room door. But as her third-period music class approached, she knew that avoiding it would not change the outcome.

Timidly, fearfully, she looked at the list. At the bottom of the page was listed the heavenly choir. As she suspected, her name was not among those listed. Rejected again! She turned to enter the class when her eye caught her name posted at the top of the page. She, Amy Williams, had been chosen to sing the only solo part in the whole pageant. She was to be the angel of the Lord. She was to sing to the Christ child, the Son of God.

There had to be a mistake. Certainly Mr. Simons would not put her in that part. It was so visible. “Amy,” called Mr. Simons from the piano, “we need to talk about your part after class.”

Class seemed to last forever. Finally it ended and she made her way to Mr. Simon’s side. “You wanted to talk to me?” “Amy, I hope this doesn’t upset you, but I need to stage your part a little differently this year.” Hidden offstage, she thought.
Mr. Simons continued: “I would like to have a pyramid built, place the other angels on it, and put you at the very top. I know in the past they’ve put the angel just a bit above the shepherds, but I think the message you sing is the central part of the pageant.”

The years of hurt exploded. “You don’t want me in the middle of the stage! Won’t the way I look ruin the whole thing? You don’t want me where everybody will stare at me!”
“Amy, I chose you because you deserve the part. What you think of yourself, I cannot change. That is something only you can deal with. I have no problem with you singing this part, and in this pageant, the angel of the Lord is center stage. You must come to peace with yourself or you must tell me to choose someone else for the part. It is your decision.”

That night, Amy made her decision. The rehearsals were exhausting. Her body ached after struggling to the top of the pyramid, but great joy filled her heart.

One advantage to living in a small town is that when there is a community event, everyone attends. And so it was the Sunday before Christmas when the whole town of Marysvale attended the Christmas pageant. Amy Williams, only child, misshapen of body if not of spirit, stood on the top of a silver-white pyramid and sang her heart out to the Christ child:

Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord . . .

What Child is this, who, laid to rest, On Mary’s lap is sleeping? . . .

Never had the angel sung more sweetly. No one had realized how sick Amy really was, I suppose, because they were so used to seeing her broken body. So it was a shock when she died that next Tuesday.

Her mother conveyed a last request from Amy to Mr. Simons. Would he please sing at her funeral? “I’ve never been in your church. It would be very difficult.” The excuses continued, but in the end he agreed.

And so that Christmas Eve, two of Amy’s classmates, two boys from the bass section, helped Mr. Simons from his wheelchair and supported him as he sang for a daughter of God, as she had sung for his Son. There are advantages to living in a small town."

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