It’s a typical teacher and teenager scene, or a typical adult and teenager scene. Something has gone wrong, and the adult is making an inquiry (however harshly or gently): “What did you do (say)?”
“Nothing” always means something, and in my experience, it most often means: “I can’t tell you what I did or said, because you will find me to be wrong, and I can’t live up to your expectations, your demands, your view of this situation right now. So, nothing.”
Being made wrong can happen in a number of ways. We can be made wrong by someone who doesn’t understand the situation and jumps to the wrong conclusion and puts that on us. We can be made wrong by being in the wrong place at the right time. We can be made wrong by association (you go to that liberal church–everyone there is going to hell). We can be made wrong by how our bodies look, the color of our skin, the length or color of our hair, the types and number of piercings, the types and locations of tattoos. We can even be declared wrong in a situation where we genuinely did something that we ourselves deem to be wrong, but somehow that doesn’t make the declaration feel okay.
Being made wrong under any circumstance–even when we know we were wrong–never helps. It alienates. It becomes a verbal and existential exile from any sort of community, whether that community is the relationship with one other person or a large gathering of people (as when whole religions or groups issue a decree–if you hold this position, you are not one of us; as when someone declares–you are either with me or against me).
So, this lullaby is radical:
I will sing you a song no one sang to me
May it keep you good company.
You can be anybody you want to be,
You can love whomever you will
You can travel any country where your heart leads
And know I will love you still.
Lullabies have been shown to have therapeutic effects on babies, especially those prematurely born. The hypnotic, gentle refrains calm the infant, help the baby to sleep, and increase appetite and immune systems, and this happens regardless of the lullaby’s content. The content, though, of many lullabies can be sad and even dark. Many think that these kinds of lullabies serve to allow the mother to express her concerns and fears while also helping her baby sleep and grow.
This lullaby of ours, then, is radical on more than one level. It allows those of us who sing it to declare a bold, counter-cultural message to ourselves, to our community, to our children and our teens, to our neighbors and to strangers: be who you want to be–and know that I will love you still. I will love you still. These are words we all need to hear–again and again. Feel free to share them.