How Well Do You Play Harmony?

When I was in 6th grade, I joined the middle school band and started playing the clarinet.  I'm not sure why I chose clarinet, probably because that's what my bff and I agreed on, or because it seemed better than the brass instruments.  But it was meant to be.  I loved playing music on my clarinet.  I worked and practiced and dedicated myself to music all through middle school and high school.  And even though I haven't picked up my instrument in many years, I know that I could still play several tunes from memory if I tried.  

Anyway, in those early days my parents were very encouraging of my efforts, and they arranged for me to play my clarinet in the band at church on Sunday mornings.  I remember going to practice with the rest of the church band, and feeling very proud that I actually knew how to assemble my instrument, never mind that I had little idea how to use it.  I had just started to learn to read music as well, so I had no idea what melody or harmony or pretty much anything meant.  

I had always assumed that all of the instruments played the tune, and that's how a symphony worked;  everyone playing the melody in unison.  Boy was I wrong.  As I started to stumble my way through that first song, I said:   "Wait!  something is wrong.  I must have the wrong music, this doesn't sound anything like the song!"  Because you see, on that particular song, the clarinet part was secondary - the harmony - the rich undertones that support and set the stage for the glorious trumpet to blast out the familiar notes of the melody.  But I didn't understand this, and was caught off guard.  I didn't realize that a beautiful song requires richness and depth, and that is accomplished through layers upon layers of seemingly mundane half and whole notes.  Of course, there are some songs where the clarinet has the melody, but even throughout a single piece of music, the parts will shift and change and alternate, with no single instrument taking full credit for the beauty of the music.

So it is with life.  Sure, it's nice to be the center of attention and have everything be about you sometimes.  But what happens when it's somebody else's turn to play the melody?  How gracefully can you allow the focus to shift to them?  How skillfully can you set the stage for them, and support them and do everything that you can to help them shine?  Can you fathom working just as hard to play the harmony in life - learning the song, giving all you've got to the music - even though you know your part blends with all the others and is indistinguishable from the whole?  Even though someone else will get the praise and the attention? 

Because this kind of support is what makes the world go 'round.  It's what creates depth and beauty and beautiful music.  It gives opportunities to others.  It spreads the love.  It utilizes the best of what everyone has to offer.  

Or are you like I was that day with the church band, all like:  "Wait!  Something is wrong!"  "Everything's not about me, and I'm freaking out!"  I sure know a few people like this.  We're all like this sometimes.  I know that I've found myself having that same reaction of shock and confusion when it suddenly dawns on me that I am not, in fact, the center of the universe.

I think that women have a particularly difficult time with this.  We are competitive.  We work hard and we want to be noticed, so when someone else steals the  spotlight, or does something pretty awesome, our initial response is to be envious of them.  But here's a radical notion:  what if we support them and lift them up instead?  What if we acknowledge that it is their time to shine, not ours, and do what we can to encourage them?  Maybe we can't control our jealous feelings, but we sure can be supportive and kind in spite of them.    

Because I believe that there's more than enough to go around.  There's enough praise and attention for us all.  We each have our own time to shine; our turn to play the melody.  It's time for us to stop trying to be a one-woman band, and start to play our beautiful symphonies together.

What about you?  Do you do everything you can to lift others up and support them in their shining moments?  Please leave a comment below, I'd love to hear from you!

Till next time,


© Haley McManigal 2015

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