Can I just say that I love my job?
I love my job because I love people. I'm slightly addicted, actually.
Someone asked me tonight if I get annoyed signing autographs and hugging so many people.
I see how she could think this. After all, I have just gotten off stage and gone straight to the RV to get my daughter to bed. Then, I go straight to the table and forget that I have not gone to the bathroom yet (which I swore I would do before I got on stage). But the line has already started. And it is long. Every time it gets short another group of people hop on the back and start the shedding of snake skin all over again.
And then there are the people themselves. Sometimes they talk a lot. Sometimes they don't talk at all... literally, they don't tell me their name when I ask, they just sit there with saucer eyes and a gaping mouth. Some people have body odor. Some people are sweaters. Inevitably it is the sweaty person that is also a hugger. And they want to hug you and hug you and whisper in your ear all kinds of encouraging things. There are kids who want you to sign inappropriate body parts and make smarmy comments. Mom's, who to their teenager's chagrin, simply cannot figure out how to take a picture on the iPhone and so we miserably smile through seven or eight attempts. Some people cry. Some people are close talkers. Some people want to pray over you. Some people talk and talk and talk and then right when you are giving your buddy in the band the "please save me from this man" look, they pull out ten posters they would like signed for every member of their family and their neighbor's family. Some people are right on me, nose to nose, telling me their entire life story. Some people are giddy, they call themselves stalkers, and they know every lovin' thing about me. Others are shy. Some people share their songs with me. Their poetry. Or, once, I even had a socially awkward girl pull up her shirt, lift a few rolls of body skin, and showed me the scar from her surgery she had last year. That was especially endearing.
This process, for my husband, is excruciating. So much so that he stopped participating in it years ago. You might as well be physically torturing him. Invasion of personal space? People who talk in circles and never get to the point? Strangers touching him? Germs? The possibility of weirdo-s or worse, stupid people who can't operate cameras? It kills him. I literally watch him squirm and see the years of his life withering before him.
But I look at the line and it feels like Christmas. I see all these faces. A sea of strangers. A cacophony of voices and foreign accents. A hodge-podge of every type of person imaginable. A collection of stories so astoundingly painful, terribly ordinary, and incredibly beautiful that a movie couldn't capture what is in front of me.
I look at the line and see eyes. Tired. Happy. Weary. Alive. Intense. Sincere. Gentle. Calm. Giving. Wanting. Peaceful. Restless. Tortured. Passionate. Dancing. Innocent. Wise.
I look at the line and see mouths. Smiling. Talking. Toothless. Braces. Gaps where something might just sprout up any moment now. Nibbling mouths. Pursed lips. Shy smiles. A see of mouths. And these mouths will tell me a name. And some of these mouths will tell me a story.
I look at the line and I see my family. My friends. My brothers. My sisters. My nieces. My nephews. My cousins. My grandparents. My parents.
And my love for them burns.
Sometimes more for one person than another, but always, an unexplainable, real, genuine love for each set of eyes. For each mouth. For each family member. Without reason, merit, or caution, I look into the next set of eyes and I love deeply.
Sometimes I am not sure exactly what I am supposed to do with my life. Or what I am good at. I know I'm technically a "singer" and I realize that my voice is more than tolerable because people keep listening to it... but seriously, if I don't step on stage another day in my life, I will be absolutely fine with that. Singing is not my strong suit. Or, let's put it this way, it's not what I am the most passionate about.
But people. They do something for me.
Now that's something I could make a livelihood out of. Because while my husband cringes at a line full of strangers, I am deeply humbled and moved by the fact that I get to call these people family. And when I look at them they are no more a stranger to me than my sisters.
It's hard to describe, but for the longest time I feel like God has allowed me to see people for who they are: His children.
It's as if God helps me look beyond the annoying laugh or sweaty hug, the awkward demeanor or misfit personality, the overly excited or the terribly depressing and instead, I see a friend. And for one moment in time I can hug that person, compliment them, look into their eyes, listen, and be their sister. I can simply, deeply, genuinely love them.
And that's the best job in the world. It doesn't make me a saint or a hero. Loving someone from day to day is much harder than loving them for one brief moment in a line. Still, I think I am settling into this bizarre reality that perhaps the music is just an avenue to let me look into someones eyes and love them, no matter what they look like. No matter who they are. The music allows me to get to the end of the night where I can sit on a table, and for hours, talk to a four year old girl and an 80 year old man. Talk to a mom who's fighting cancer and a mom who has left an abusive marriage with her two daughters. A dad who has lost his wife and is raising his 4 daughters by himself. A girl who wants to lead worship so bad that her heart is about to burst if she doesn't. A family who has driven three hours and spent all their birthday money to come see a show. A kid figuring out their lives. A woman trying to re-engage with God after being disillusioned. A grandfather who wants to make sure I don't miss the little moments with Annie. A 16 year old who has just been rescued from a sex trafficking ring. A blog reader who says she is quite sure we are long lost sisters. And a 65 year old man who heard What Do I Know of Holy and pulled over on the side of the road to worship.
That is my job. That is my calling. Each and every story. Each and every face. Each and every voice. Each and every person. I see them and I am filled with a love I cannot explain.
We have a new album coming out and I plan on making music for a long time to come. So don't worry James and all you other Nashville music people who get nervous when I talk this way... I'm not going anywhere.
But if you ask me what I do for a living I might not answer, "musician."
I might just answer, "I'm a line lover."