It’s been four years, but the memory and its effects are with me as if it happened yesterday.

In mid-July of 2016, fifty high school juniors and seniors and eight adult counselors converged in Dallas for the YouthCUE National Honor Choir Texas Tour (NHC). The six-day tour included singing in venues in Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Horseshoe Bay, Waco, and Shreveport, LA. Of the ten concerts performed during the six-day tour, one was most memorable for me.

It was Day Five, a Wednesday morning. We had been traveling hard for almost a week and we were weary. The thought of getting up early to sing a 10:15am concert was exhausting, but the curiosity of the venue provided the necessary energy to get up, get dressed in our casual concert attire and load the bus to downtown Dallas. The venue was The Stewpot, which provides resources for basic survival and a safe place for the homeless and at-risk individuals in inner city Dallas.

As the bus pulled up in front of the building, right away we could see the needs of the individuals standing in line at the door to get in. It seemed each one was carrying a large bag or two filled with all their earthly possessions. Their clothes were not new, their shoes tattered and worn, and their faces were filled with lines of worry. The jovial noises of the students on the bus began to take on a new sound as they began to notice the outside environment. There was no need to say anything. Everyone was on the same page. We could almost hear the inner thoughts of the students: How can we make their days, their lives, better?

Once inside The Stewpot, those we had noticed outside took on the role of hosts. They were so happy we were there and seemed excited to show us around “their place.” The NHC students returned the hospitality with hugs and smiles, kind words and laughter. After about 15 minutes of greeting each other, Randy called the NHC choir together up front, by the piano, for a quick warm up and then concert. The repertoire included, OYE MI CLAMOR/Dan Goeller, PSALM 47/Ellingboe, I WOULD BE TRUE/Patterson, PILGRIM SONG/Murphy, THE PRAYER/arr. Fettke, BOUND FOR THE PROMISED LAND/Wilberg, and others. The audience was highly attentive, some crying, some clapping, some singing, some dancing, and all were moved.

After our last anthem, NHC students made their ways among the audience members to visit, but to our surprise, our audience got up and took their place at the front by the piano as if they were going to sing. Yes, The Dallas Street Choir was about to perform for us!

Only two years earlier, in 2014, The Dallas Street Choir was founded by Dr. Jonathan Palant with a mission to offer a musical outlet for those experiencing homelessness and severe disadvantages. To date, nearly 2,000 individuals have attended at least one of the weekly rehearsals. They have performed in venues such as the Winspear Opera House, Carnegie Hall and the George W. Bush Presidential Library, along with other private and public venues.

Wow! What a blessing was given to us that day. Here were homeless, disadvantaged individuals singing with their hearts and souls for us. Some were dancing, some were lifting their hands in praise, all were smiling with joy. Although they all had music folders, there was no musical notation to be found. Words only, for most did not know how to read music, some could not read at all. They gave to us the only thing they had to give, their beautiful songs!

As the NHC students and counselors sat in awe, listening to the beautiful music being offered to us, there were smiles, tears and joy. What a treat! What an example of how we can take our brokenness and together, make something beautiful happen.

At the end of our time together, we had opportunity to sing one song together, directed by Jonathan. It was a powerful moment in time on our busy tour.

After the concert, NHC was escorted to the front of the lunch line for sandwiches and chips. Although we tried to let the Dallas Street Choir go before us, they would not have it that way. They were our hosts. We all sat together around the large room, visiting and sharing our stories with one another. The fellowship happening in that 30-minute time frame was unforgettable. One of our students, Micah, had the opportunity to minister powerfully to a man who was in need. Another small group of NHC students had the privilege of listening to a man tell his story. It was an amazing experience.

When it was time to go, there was lingering and long good-byes. No one wanted to leave our new friends. You could not be in the room that day without being changed in some way. It will forever be remembered as a transformational time for me.

Tina McCartney

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