Audra (“don’t call me Audrey”) McDonald is blessed with a voice that can melt butter or shake the rafters. Ms. McDonald, whom I heard in concert, performed a concert of Broadway show tunes. And while the music was wonderful, the stories were the thing that caught my ear.
Like the time she wanted to give a gift to her cast in a show in which she was acting. (Ms. McDonald holds the record for the most Tony Awards received by any one person). She went to a place called Covenant House, a shelter for homeless youth, to deliver a check as a donation in honor of her cast. While there she encountered a street youth, with all his worldly possessions contained in a garbage bag, and she saw how he was welcomed into the house. She witnessed hospitality like it is meant to be. She saw this young man receiving the words that could change his life, “It’s all right. We’ve got you now. You are going to be fine.” So, she not only left a check; she joined the international board of directors and tells people around the country the story of Covenant House during her concerts.
Or like the story of how she, an African-American woman, came to be on stage in front of a mostly white audience. She reminded us of something that is so easy to forget. She told us that she doesn’t ever forget that if it wasn’t for the people before her who fought all of the bloody battles for equality among the races in the United State that she would not be able to eat in the same restaurants with us; she wouldn’t be able to drink from the same drinking fountains; she wouldn’t be able to sit in the same seats on public transportation as the white people do; why, she probably would not have even been welcome on the very stage on which we now witnessed her singing. So it is that she advocates for marriage equality, a cause which she equates with the battle for racial equality.
I have been wondering why Ms. McDonald sprinkles these stories among her songs. And I thought about a line from her last song, “Over the Rainbow”. You know the line: “If happy little blue birds fly beyond the rainbow/ why, o why can’t I?” Life gave her the chance to fly high, and as she soars, she encourages all the other little birds. I don’t know what stage God has given you. Maybe it is the kitchen floor and your kids are your audience. They are little birds who want to fly. Give them wings.