On a June day in 1944, two weeks after D-Day, a few miles from the bloody shores of Omaha Beach, members of the 404th Fighter Group worked to carve an airstrip out of the Normandy countryside. Their efforts cost the lives of 28 Army engineers at the hands of the German snipers who persisted and fought after the D-Day battle. Most were located and captured or killed. One lone sniper still remained in the nighttime distance.
Back at the airstrip, Capt. Jack Tueller took out his trumpet. He’d used it on many a starlit night to entertain the men of the 404th. His commander told him, “Not tonight. I know your trumpet makes the most glorious sound, but with the sniper still out there, you will put us in harms way.”
In Tueller’s own words, “I thought to myself, that German sniper is as lonely and scared as I am. How can I stop him from firing? I’ll play his love song. So, I played the German song, ‘Lili Marleen,’ (made famous in the late ’30s by Marlene Dietrich, the famous German actress). And I wailed that trumpet over those apple orchards of Normandy. And he didn’t fire.”
The next morning, the military police approached Tueller to tell him they had a German prisoner on the beach who kept asking, “Who played that trumpet last night?”
Tueller describes the moment, “I grabbed my trumpet and went down to the beach. There was a 19-year-old German boy, scared and lonesome. He was dressed like a French peasant to cloak his role as a sniper. And, crying, he said, ‘I couldn’t fire because I thought of my fiancé. I thought of my mother and father. My role is finished.'”
“He stuck out his hand, and I shook the hand of the enemy,” Tueller said. “[But] he was no enemy, because music had soothed the savage beast.”
(Listen to Tueller tell the story.)
At times, every one of us is afraid.
And the world feels very broken. (The small part I am in. And the bigger world around me.)
And I want someone or something to make it right, to create a safe place where worry has no jurisdiction.
Here’s why this matters. When I am anxious (sad, unsettled, disheartened), I revert to a zero-sum view of the world. I assume (and live as if) resources–including compassion, mercy, kindness, forgiveness, trust and generosity–are finite. And in a zero-sum world, life is short, and the dominant and powerful seem to win.
So, you get what you can. And if I don’t know you, you are my enemy… or at the very least, someone to be mistrusted.
Here’s the deal: When my emotional compass is catawampus. I need the healing balm from stories and music, that ground and sustain and empower and transform.
I love Tueller’s story because music unlocks mercy… and who knows, maybe even the possibility for healing. Starting inside my own heart.
“Sometimes the world tries to knock it out of you. But I believe in music the way that some people believe in fairy tales. I like to imagine that what I hear came from my mother and father. Maybe the notes I hear, are the same ones they heard, the night they met. Maybe that’s how they found each other. Maybe that’s how they’ll find me.” (From the Movie August Rush)
A Nigerian woman, a physician at a teaching hospital in the United States, attended a Gordon MacDonald lecture. After, she approached Gordon, to offer kind words of affirmation. She introduced herself using an American name.
“If I may ask,” Gordon inquired, “what’s your African name?”
The woman pronounced her name, several syllables long, with a musical sound to it.
“And what does your name mean?” Gordon asked.
She answered, “It means ‘Child who takes the anger away.'”
When he inquired about its origin, she told him the story.
“My parents had been forbidden by their parents to marry. But they loved each other so much that they defied the family opinions and married anyway. For several years they were ostracized from both their families. Then my mother became pregnant with me. After my birth, and when the grandparents held me in their arms for the first time, the walls of hostility came down. I became the one who swept the anger away. And that’s the name my mother and father gave me.”
Don’t ever forget what tethers you and give you bearing.
Don’t ever forget the name you’ve been given.
Don’t ever forget you can play the trumpet of mercy.
More often than not, Tion Medon’s counsel to Obi wan kanobi on Utapau (for Star Wars aficionados) is right on. “There is no war here unless you brought it with you.”
And the walls of hostility came down.
When I am afraid, it’s easy to understand my knee-jerk toward muscle and force. And I miss the point that transformation is fueled by vulnerability. The willingness to be tough enough to be soft. It is not surprising that softer values, empathy and compassion unnerve us. Whenever I am afraid, I never want to let on. It feels like a defect, or weakness. “To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature,” David Whyte reminds us, “the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt to become something we are not and most especially, to close off our understanding of the grief of others.”
What I am learning is this: Perhaps the very people I exclude, are the ones who carry the light that will allow me to see. That will allow me to see the Grace of God. And the expansive reach of God’s acceptance. To every single one of us. In Dorothy Day’s words, “Those who hurt, are angry and have nothing left to give, they are my meeting place with God.”
It is Father’s Day. Raise a glass to dads who are still with us. And the memories of those who are now looking down on us.
I’ll wander the garden, check in on the Goldfinch Convention off the back patio, and let gratitude take root.
Quotes for your week…
I was an unruly child. Music tamed me. Col. Jack Tueller
Notes: One — Tueller went on to fight in the Korean and Vietnam wars, and served in the Pentagon during the Cuban Missile Crisis and Cold War. He retired in 1966 as a colonel, having earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, almost two dozen air medals and two Legions of Merit, the nation’s highest peacetime award. He died in 2016 at the age of 95.
Two — Thank you for being a part of the Sabbath Moment community. We’ve added an element. Groups use SM for study or discussion. Now each week reflection questions and exercises are available for group and personal use. Let me know if you want to be on the list to receive. Please pass the word. And remember that we couldn’t exist without the generosity of readers like you. Have you considered becoming a sustaining donor?
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Today’s photo credit — Father’s Day in my Garden… Louisiana Iris… keep sending your photos… send to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Misc. in the mailbag…
–Terry, I do so appreciate SM. I recall seeing you and hearing your voice in your catch phrases. You take me deeper and make me laugh. God bless you. Joyce.
–Love, love, love your daily reminders…keeps me grounded and helps my light shine…. thanks Terry
–Hi Terry, I just viewed my recording of the Tony Awards that took place on Sunday night. The “In Memoriam” piece contained Gillian Lynne’s photo and name. It was so lovely to have read SB and know a little part of her story. Ballet has been a sacred part of my life since I was 5 years old. Thank you – Dance! Stephanie
–Terry – I am interested in receiving the reflection questions and discussion ideas for group study. Some other women and I are forming a small group to discuss your weekly topics. Thank you so much. Sue
–Lovely message. And the quote! I remember my high school art teacher (40+ years ago) telling us to picture the item we were sculpting as trapped inside the block (wax) and just clear away the bits to reveal it. Have a great week! Jennie
–Thank you for your meditation this morning… Freeing and reconciling! revdon
–Hi Terry: I’ve heard you tell the Gillian story- it’s one that has stuck in my soul. It’s not only about judgement of children- we are all dancers if we are allowed to dance!! Mike
–I was picturing my granddaughter Bunny dancing as I read this. Peaceful, loving thoughts abounded. When I lived in Naples, Italy as a teenager, my violin teacher played in the pit orchestra at the San Carlo Opera house. We often were gifted with opening night tickets. I love almost all genres of music, but opera is not my favorite. Towards the end of our time there, the Damnation of Faust came. I love watching dance, especially ballet. It was mesmerizing! One of my favorite memories of Christmas is this past one when I took 3 of my granddaughters, who have all studied ballet to see The Nutcracker. It was magical and most definitely transforming, peaceful yet inspiring. Thank you for bringing this beautiful memory to my mind and peace to you, too! Julie
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Love rescue me
Come forth and speak to me
Raise me up and don’t let me fall
No man is my enemy
My own hands imprison me
Love rescue me
Everything is waiting for you
Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.
Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the
conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots h
ave left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.
My Prayer For You
When you’re lonely I pray for you to feel love.
When you’re down I pray for you to feel joy.
When you’re troubled I pray for you to feel peace.
When things are complicated I pray for you to see simple beauty in all things.
When things are chaotic I pray for you to find inner silence.
When things look empty I pray for you to know hope.