It’s like any other tour day. I wake up as the bus rolls to a stop, the engine changing to a subtle rumble. I check my iTouch maps to make sure we are where we are supposed to be. I try to find my glasses in the dark. I keep them hanging from a cable that jets from the side of an old DVD player that acts more as an obstacle than an actual form of bus entertainment. I click on the light over my head and it cuts through the darkness like a spotlight. It could be sunny outside. It could be raining. Our bunks have no windows so there is never a sense of time. I lay there, wondering if we’re back in Central time or on Mountain time.
I complete my morning ritual with a quick read of Oswald Chambers and then I contort myself into many odd shapes to change clothes in my bunk, which I’m guessing is about 4 feet wide by 3 feet tall and 7 feet long. “So glad I have taken all those yoga classes” runs across my mind, and with pass and sharpies in hand, I crawl out of my bunk, grab my radio and a cup of coffee and then hop off the bus to start another day.
For this month, I’m helping my friend Lisa sell t-shirts for a tour, and so we’ve traveled the country on a bus full of smelly stage teach boys, handling all of the merchandising needs of the bands. My main job – managing a small army of volunteers each night, which honestly is more frustrating than helpful on some days.
In other tour posts, I’m sure I’ll talk about that, but today, I’m sort of struggling with why I’m here. I hurt my foot and so the constant walking on cement arena floors 15 hours a day isn’t helping. 10:00 arrives along with 12 volunteers. As we empty out the semi and set up the tables, the conversation consists of the normal questions: “How do you get this job?” “You do this EVERY DAY?” “Wait, you don’t live here?” “Why don’t you have kids?” and my favorite several-times-a-day-every-day question: “Do you know TobyMac?” We set up fairly quickly and it’s only a couple of hours before I send the first team on their way, and take a little break before the second.
Today is filled with visits from old friends, my favorite reason for taking these jobs. But I’m again hearing the voice from the little red cartoon character that sits on my shoulder and prods my neck with a small red pitchfork. The jabs don’t hurt, so much as sting, or just annoy. Today’s is annoying. I remember clients that are probably angry that I’m behind on all my “real” work. Catering is bad. There are roaches in our dressing room. The internet in the bus is being weird.
And as God likes to do in times like this, he whispers a little glimpse of truth when I least expect it.
The show is in full swing, and in search of a short cut to replenish t-shirts during the show, I cut through the back of the house. And I see it.
A row of probably 50 people with extreme needs. In wheel chairs. Handicapped. Mentally unstable. Physically broken. And they are visibly being undeniably fed by the music. The happiness is overwhelming. The show has reached out and put some joy in their life. I can’t help but focus on a teenage boy, handsome and athletic, who is wheelchair bound. His legs are locked in, and I wonder how long he’s been a captive to that chair. But this moment, he’s fixated. Singing praises, forgetting his hindrance and unified with the masses on their feet just below his row.
Many others are severely challenged. They have trouble keeping their head up. They are forever attached to an oxygen tank. Palsies. Mental illness. Broken bodies.
Small drops come out of the side of a woman’s mouth, and a kind patient caregiver quickly dabs her face. The caregiver then takes the woman’s hand and raises it in the air, and together they sing along “there is no one like our God.” The woman in the wheelchair was singing without making real words, with a giant smile taking over her entire face. The caregiver wasn’t in an arena. Her spirit was obviously somewhere else as she soaked in every little bit of the moment so she can go on day after day, doing the dirty work of holding the hand of someone so in need.
Throughout the night, I kept coming back to this row, and while I know there was a great spirit of God in the room, there were little miracles happening all along the wheelchair row. Miracles that give strength to many who’s lives are so much more challenging than my own. I remembered the power that music has had in my life, and I had to remind myself that to all 4000 people in the room, that power was alive and well.
And I knew why I was there that night. It takes a lot of bodies to make a tour like this happen, and if in some way my little corner allowed these people to enjoy a moment of peace, of music, of joy, then it was completely worth it.
And tomorrow, I’ll happily wrap my foot, and jump on the bus for a 14 hour drive to Iowa, ready to hit the concourse. Reminding myself that many times, what God calls me to do may have nothing to do with me at all.