July 19, 2016

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Steve Siler is a song writer, and founder and director of Music for the Soul, a non-profit music ministry. He is writing this column on behalf of Downtown Frankfort, Inc., a Kentucky Main Street program.


And a Little Child Shall Lead Them

In the aftermath of a deadly week in our country lots of us were left wondering, “What can be done?”

How do we move beyond this place of anger and division to a place of understanding and mutual concern? I believe the answer is in relationship. I believe the answer is in paying more attention to the things that unite us, rather than the things that divide us.

We all hunger – and it’s harder to hate someone after you have broken bread with them. We all love our families – and it’s harder to hate someone once you’ve met their children and they’ve met yours. We all have a story – and it’s harder to hate someone once those stories have been shared.

There’s another unifier that’s been an important factor in my life and in the life of this country. Music. I was in the generation of white kids that grew up loving Motown and acts like Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind, & Fire, and the Temptations.  

Through the years, popular music acts from Sly and the Family Stone to the Doobie Brothers to the Dave Matthews Band have shown that musicians of different hues can work together to make wonderful music.

And this week – right here in Frankfort – music is acting as a unifier again in a beautiful and exciting way.

Wednesday morning, I was at First Christian Church in downtown Frankfort getting a look – and a listen – at Music Camp. Under the leadership of Maria Bartholomew this annual event brings together a rainbow of kids with diverse backgrounds. This year’s group has over fifty children!

Yes, they learn songs, but they learn other important things too. They learn about cooperating with others. They learn about working hard. And they learn about making friends with people from all types of backgrounds. Close your eyes and listen and you don’t hear any color.  All you hear is joy!

“They inspire me!” says Bartholomew. “They come with hearts open and full of love and are willing to do everything I ask them to do.”

Bartholomew’s goal is to give them a love of music that will last a lifetime. “I try to give them music that they can tuck into their hearts, songs that they can sing again in their life for inspiration in the hard times.”

Music speaks to a deep place in all of us, touching our emotions and opening our hearts. Not only that, it can create actual physical unity. When a group sings together studies have shown that the heart rates of those singing actually move into sync with one another! [i]

“The kids leave loving to sing,” says Bartholomew. They are eager to return the next year to renew acquaintances with the friends they make at the camp. “For some of these kids it’s their third or fourth year,” she adds.

In the wake of events of the last ten days it is particularly encouraging to see this gathering of young people – from a variety of ethnicities – all working and singing together. Scripture says in Isaiah 11:6 “and a little child shall lead them.”

Watching these children gives one hope again that perhaps we, as Americans of diverse backgrounds, could learn to “sing together.”   Let’s consider how we can we take the example of these youngsters and apply it to the broader community of Frankfort to improve where we live and work.

[i] http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/07/09/200390454/when-choirs-sing-many-hearts-beat-as-one\


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