271 | He Is Risen, Indeed

March 31, 2013
Sunday, 3:30 p.m.
Letter #271: He Is Risen, Indeed

Dear Family,

Happy Resurrection Day! It would be an otherwise beautiful day, were it not for one annoying factor: no one here knows the standard response to the exclamation, “He is risen!” The world over, the response is the same: “He is risen, indeed!”

If you are thinking that we no longer use the word, “indeed,” which is perhaps one reason most prisoners don’t know the correct response, you would, indeed, be correct. And I will, indeed tell you what prisoners say instead, as a response: Anything that comes to their mind. I say, “He is risen!” and I get back, “He sure is!” or “Amen!” or “You know it!” The closest I got was an old guy who spent years in church throughout his life. He just stared at me blankly. I repeated the “He is risen!” and got a smile. When I reminded him what his response should be, he said that his church used to say, “Why, yes, He rose from the dead, indeed,” as their response. Really? I don’t believe him! Far more likely that he has brain rot and they used to say, “He is risen, indeed!” Good thing that while he worked for McDonald’s years ago he wasn’t the one writing their slogans and advertising campaigns. The instantly recognizable “Duh-da-dot-di-dah” tune and the “I’m lovin’ it!” catchphrase would’ve turned into the opening lines of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” with the slogan, “My, this food tastes so wonderful, I sure do enjoy eating it.” Yeah, it tastes good, indeed.

I have discovered while leading the La Palma Community Choir that I am not a very effective leader. I have music skills, and I can arrange voices and skill levels into something that sounds incredible, but I’ve found that flaws in other areas make my choir members frustrated. I push everyone to be at their best, and I expect a lot out of them. However, I forget to smile and let the guys know how well they’re doing. Everyone loves the finished songs, but not everyone enjoys the process I put them through.

I began to realize this when one of my choir members told me he wasn’t coming back. He tried to say it was because he disagreed with the song choices, but I felt it was actually because of me. Ross, a former Marine and martial arts instructor, was used to being in a leadership role. In fact, he responds well to wise leadership, but I could tell I’d damaged his spirit by my strict practices. My hunch was proved right when he also quit attending business class. I had to do something. More importantly, I had to change.

First, I apologized to the choir and announced a new style of leadership. Next, I sought out Ross and apologized to him. I told him that I’d noticed his leadership skills and asked him to return to the choir and take on some responsibility. Specifically, I want him to look for ways to improve our performance and showmanship. Ross is a real ham, so he loved the idea. I told him that I expect him to set an example by not distracting the other members. Instead, try to see the choir from the director’s perspective and work in harmony (ha!) with those objectives. He agreed. He forgave me for being short with the choir and him, and he asked to apologize to the choir for walking out on them. Everyone forgave him, and I enjoyed having his full participation now that he feels needed and that his skills can be utilized.

I know I still have a lot to learn. I listen to suggestions and adjust to fit what is best for those I’m leading. It’s not been easy, but I want others to see that when wrong, I’ve changed and risen to the task before me. Risen indeed!