Tuesday, February 6, 2018

All three verses.

"Do you know the words to the national anthem?"

That's what my patient asked just before I got ready to leave the room. Instead of answering right away, I squinted my eyes and puffed my cheeks out.


Were we about to unpack the NFL controversy? I mean, I could. But honestly? It had been a late night yesterday and I didn't have the bandwidth.

Fortunately, I wouldn't need it. My patient clarified that query: "Not that spangled one, neither. I'm talking 'bout the negro national anthem. Do you know it?"

I sat a little taller and smiled. "Yes, ma'am. As a matter of fact, I do."

Her eyes narrowed in suspicion. "ALL the verses?"

"Not by heart. But I know them mostly."

"You need to learn 'em by heart. 'Specially that last one. That's the one that remind you of who you are."

"The 'God of our weary years' part?"

"Oooooo weeeee!" She slapped the blanket in front of her and sighed. "Yes indeed!"

"I actually do know that one." I stared upward and tried to make sure. Then I had to be honest. "Well--I take that back. I mostly do." We both laughed.

"See that first verse tell you to make a joyful noise from how far you come. Then the second one help you not forget the past. The last one is my favorite 'cause it tell you to give Him the glory for helping you make it over."

I sat for a moment sifting through the words and realized I was drawing a few blanks. So I did what I always do in situations like that. I pulled out my iPhone and punched in "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing Lyrics" into a Google search. Then I turned the screen to show her the words. "Want me to read it?"

She nodded. "Read it, not sing it, hear?" We both laughed again, me a little louder than she.

Then I slipped on my reading glasses and read. Speaking each stanza slowly and carefully, not caring who else in earshot could hear:

"Lift ev’ry voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast’ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land."

"That make me want to CRY!" a voice said from the other side of the curtain. It was the patient in the next bed. After that I heard a moist sniffle. My eyes were stinging, too.

"Not me," my patient said. "Make ME want to shout."


Damn, I love this job.

Happy Tuesday.

Now playing on my mental iPod--my favorite version of this song arranged by Roland Carter . .  all three verses. Always gives me chills.


  1. Beautiful, Doc--both the anthem and your telling.
    At Morehouse ceremonies, we do both anthems. I've not stood for the spangled one for probably 45 years, for the same reasons as Colin Kaepernick, and many other similar reasons. But I leap to my feet for "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Colleagues and students sitting near me--they get it.
    Sorry--TMI. The point of today's piece is LIFT EVERY VOICE and its deep, deep soul.
    Thanks for YOUR voice.
    P.S. I love my job, too.


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