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The art of receiving

February 4, 2011

I love this video of Ray Charles because it captures his beautiful smile.

I ushered for five years at a Performing Arts Center as a volunteer. It was a good gig. It was a rental hall, so one night Lucinda Williams might play and the next the Israel Camerata chamber orchestra or Bill Cosby. It just depended on who was coming through town.

They gave us 300 ushers the chance to choose the shows we wanted to work and we took our jobs fairly seriously. Well, some of the ushers took their jobs a little too seriously. I mean, I wanted to maintain order, but certain overzealous (usually old) ushers would try to keep people at rock shows sitting down in their seats. Put away the flashlight, Harriet. Nevertheless, I loved being part of the black-clad army who helped people find Row F.

Ray Charles was my all-time favorite performer. Not for how he played – though that was great. I mean, holy cats, Ray Charles. But the remarkable thing to me was how he accepted the applause at the end of each song.

He stood on stage, arms spread, flashing that big white grin, and just soaking it all in. He just…received. It was as if he was saying “Yes, I’m great. This music is great. We’re all having a good time, and I love that you’re loving it.”

His gracious and joyful receiving fueled the crowd’s ardor, and the energy of the show grew and grew as the evening went on. He had every switch open and the power was on.

Most people can’t do that. Most of the performers I saw, no matter how fabulous they were, couldn’t open up and let the audience in all the way. No matter how much they smiled or bowed, you could still see some kind of tension or holding back in they way they moved, their posture or their eyes.

Ray was as open as the sky. That was his real gift to us – to show us that it is possible to just stand there and be glorious.

Have you seen this fabulous TED video of Brene Brown? Well. She has some things to say about openness and vulnerability, too.

  1. February 5, 2011 11:45

    I started crying at minute 9:38 of the video. Is it possible for those of us who grew up believing that we are not enough (and interpreting all of life’s experiences through that lens) to change our thinking? Is there a way to do it without spending thousands of dollars in therapy?

    I have a new full-time job so I haven’t been reading blogs. I’m not going to make the mistake of not reading your blog again. You are a gem, and I love you.

    • February 5, 2011 11:57

      Well, thank you. I am quite a fan of yours as well. We must get together for some caffeinated beverages and you can tell me about the new job.

      As far as your questions…man, I wish I knew.

  2. February 7, 2011 15:57

    I was lucky enough to see Ray Charles in Norway. And? I’ve dreamed about being an usher. Not Usher. AN usher. 😉

    • February 8, 2011 15:34

      The usher gig was great. The waiting list had 300 people on it, and only because they cut it off at 300. Only about 10 people a year quit or died.

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