The UPS guy who delivers to my building is named Angel, and he is full of warmth and friendliness; those qualities in his voice have inspired me to create my own story about him…Italian from Brooklyn, whose mom thought he was so adorable that she named him Angel. Then there’s the barber down the street named Sharkie. Sharkie’s family is originally from China, but growing up in the East Village has left him with a thick New York accent. He always calls me the “sexy lady with a stick,” which gives you an idea of his personality – always fun and full of life. I love hearing other’s voices. Through them, I get a sense of who people are and how they see the world.
I think people don’t often realize how much of an impression they can make on others when they aren’t afraid, or push past their fear, to simply let themselves be known, even in the smallest ways.
Why Are We Afraid to Speak?
One of my favorite things I get to do is encourage those who hide in the shadows to step into the light and speak up. Not to shout or have an opinion about every little thing, but to bring themselves to the world and contribute their voice. I meet many people who have a talent for writing, but are too afraid to share. I meet people with disabilities who have been relegated to a corner and made to believe they have nothing to offer, so they don’t share. In fact, most of us hide our hearts in some way, forgetting that we were made for more than simply existing in the world.
I know something about the fear of adding your voice to the conversation. I’ve always thought that, since I can’t see, I should find other ways to be useful. For me, those ways are being agreeable, talking about whatever anyone else wants to talk about, and always being ready to listen. These are all good things, but not when taken too far. A while back, I started to realize that if I didn’t bring my own voice to the conversation, not only would people not really know who I was, but we would have no real basis for a friendship. What could they ask me if I kept everything about myself hidden away?
As a songwriter, I’ve had to learn how to find my voice, as it were, whether I feel like it or not. There are lots of days when I’m afraid of failing, or when I simply don’t feel like trying. But I have to, so I pray, set my feelings aside, and sing. More often than not, I find the experience was worth having. I think the same could be said in life.
Echoes of Hope
More than anyone else, my friend Ronell taught me about how speaking life to others, no matter your circumstances, will echo in their hearts long after. Diagnosed with cancer as a teen, she had come from Trinidad to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital to get treatment. I heard her story through a friend who connected us, and I went to meet her and write a song with her for an album she was making. The first thing she said to me when we eet was, “So Ginny, I can’t walk, and you can’t see, so you push my chair around and I’ll tell you where to go, and we’ll conquer the world.”
I quickly realized Ronell had more going on than most people without cancer. She was writing a book, making an album, and speaking life into the people she collected along the way—doctors, nurses, people at the grocery store – even me. She told us all about how she was living with hope through cancer, and how God was the Giver of that hope.
Ronell and I became great buds – we wrote a song, did a few concerts together, and laughed a lot. When she passed away some six months later, it was devastating for me and for a whole host of others. The church was packed the night of her celebration service, full of people from all over the country – people who liked God and people who didn’t, Doctors, nurses and others from her team at the hospital, and families with kids fighting cancer – all people this girl’s life had impacted. The echoes of her words still ring in my ears: “Maybe tomorrow I’ll wake up and get to travel the world and sing; or maybe I’ll wake up in the arms of Jesus. Either way, I win.”
What an echo.
Let it Echo
If you feel like hiding, or like your voice doesn’t matter, I hope Ronell’s story will inspire you to think differently. Like her, I believe we can speak because God Himself has given us each a voice. It is because of my hope in Him that I continue, through the great days and the dark ones, to sing.
Hear the brand new single, Echo, HERE now!