Autumn Light

My choir was going to perform in a bad part of town and I had a special solo. I was nervous--until an unforgettable angel sighting helped me through it.


Just for me, a special solo. That’s what Miss Van D surprised me with at the end of junior choir practice one late-autumn day. She had chosen me over the seven other girls I sang with. “Your hymn will close a service with Reverend Wilson next Saturday,” she said. “You’ll do a beautiful job, Virginia. I’m sure of it.”

My best friend, Alice, raised her hand. “Where will the service be?”

“At the Peoples’ Rescue Mission,” said Miss Van D. “On Water Street.”

A couple of girls gasped. Water Street was in a bad part of town. Dangerous people lived there, I’d heard. On the street, some of them. I’d never been anywhere near there at any time of year. But how awful it must look now, with the trees bare and winter on the way.

“We can’t go there, Miss Van D,” a girl named Annie said firmly.

“It’s scary,” said Jenny from the alto section. I kept silent, but I agreed. I didn’t want to sing a solo in such a place. Not for people like that.

Miss Van D pushed her dark-rimmed glasses up on her nose and frowned down at us. “You don’t want to sing for people less fortunate? Who don’t have warm homes or enough food to eat? Or the comfort of knowing that they’re loved as all children of God are?” It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t see how I could.

Before dismissing us, Miss Van D handed me a packet of crisp, new sheet music. I traced a finger over the lilies on the cover and the fancy green script that said “Leave It With Him.” Leave what? I wondered.

I ran outside into the autumn air, and kicked dry leaves all the way home. Up in my room I read through my song. It was about leaving our troubles to God like the lilies do. I thought about lilies blooming in a summer garden. What troubles did anyone have when the sun was shining and the days were lazy and long? The lilies had it easy. Everything changed in the fall. School started. Night came early and cold. And now this! I imagined myself onstage in front of all those scary people. I couldn’t sing in such a dreary place. Not alone. I was in big trouble, and there was nothing God could do. The night before the service I lay in bed, listening to the autumn wind whistle outside my window. God, how will I get through tomorrow’s solo?

By the time I climbed into the church van I was almost relieved. I wanted to get this over with. Nobody said much. I stared out the window, streaked with rain. The sky grew grey and dull. The farther we drove, the more run-down the streets became.

We pulled up in front of an old brick building and stepped carefully on the sidewalk covered in soggy leaves. In the meeting room, rows of folding chairs faced a makeshift stage with a piano and a wood table. A picture hung over the door, but the light was too dim to make it out. Nothing came through the dusty windows but gloom.

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