I practiced the art of hanging out yesterday at the Eight District Long Beach Jazz Festival. It meant letting go of the reason I thought I had chosen to go—to speak to people about the great church that is right here in North Long Beach. It didn’t feel right to go from person to person giving cards or fliers. Instead, I planted myself and listened as a short musical theme was played and then the ensemble took it apart in creative flights of musical wonder and brought it back again. I let my hands move to the beat of the original theme, following it through the course of the piece.
I watched as a young girl stood out in front to take a picture of the woman painting on canvas. I wondered if she wanted to be a painter too.
I closed my eyes and catnapped enveloped by the sounds of people talking and the music.
I got up to follow nature’s call and Councilman Austin excused himself from a large group of people to come over and say hello to me. What a sweet moment! I count myself lucky to be able to see the man behind this faithful councilman.
After a while, I texted Renee, wondering if she and Elaine were there. They were with their adopted niece and nephew and the child’s mom. I thought I’d just say “hello” and move on. Instead, I sat down and ate my sandwich and a piece of bean pie that is sold by local Muslims as fundraisers. We chatted a while as the children moved from person to person. Oh, that adorable and exhausting under 5 age!
Afterward, I moved my seat to the center so I could see the whole stage near a woman who knew the band playing and could tell you Xavier’s album was Excellence. By the end of his act, we all knew the name of his album. But Xavier got us to do what no one else had done that day, he got the whole park full of people to dance playing Soul Train music. Then he sat down at the piano and played…taking obvious themes like Queen’s Bohemian Rapsody and mixing it with another and then another…creating a whole new thing.
If I had been there to do my thing—to go and tell people about the church I love—I would not have made it beyond an hour. Instead, I opened myself up to receive. I didn’t worry about what I needed to do, instead, I let myself see what it was others were doing. It was good. And, a few times when Xavier played, my hands went up in the air in praise of God who creates all good things.
As we get back to work, to school, to lives made busier by the stress of the pandemic, it is good to remember to take time to hang out and receive. God’s voice in scripture reminds us “to be still and know that I am God.” While prayer and meditation are beautiful ways to do that, so is listening to music, looking at art, and watching the birds play. The holy life is sometimes found in purposeless moments when we are free to simply be.