Once a week I brought my guitar to the nursing home and sang for those residents who were unable to come to the dining room for programs or for Church on Sundays. I’d listened as aphasic stroke patients who had not spoken for months or years, joined me as I sang “The Old Rugged Cross” or “In The Garden”. I had seen bird-like Minnie, ninety-nine years of age, raise her hands over her head while tears streamed down her face as I sang “I Trust in God”. A song I thought new, but found she and her husband had sung as they rode from Ohio to Illinois, in a covered wagon to be missionaries when she was fourteen. Each room I entered was a page of history and their stories enriched my life.
As we turned down another corridor, Deanna, in her big square walker jostled ahead of us and disappeared into a door at the end of the hall. “Deanna lives in the Little Girls’ Room and she’s excited about your visiting her and her room mates.” Deanna, bound by Cerebral Palsy, always met me at the door and asked for “Jesus Loves Me”. I counted it a privilege to sing for her. Now, after two months I was to sing for the “Little Girls”.
Joy pushed open the door and motioned me in. Deanna was beaming from beside a bed near the window. Women ranging in age from 40 to 60 occupied the other three beds. One sat with arms tightly wrapped around knees drawn up to her chin. She was silent, except for loud groans every few minutes. Another had blue-gray eyes and skin like white marble. It was obvious she could not walk for her limbs were terribly misshapen. She and the fourth ‘little girl’ rocked constantly as though working at their daily occupations.
Silently I asked God for the grace to sing here and that it be to His glory. As I began singing “Jesus Loves Me”, I kept my eyes on Deanna, an island of familiarity in this strange room. But, in my line of sight were the others. Slowly, the rocking ceased, arms were loosened and four pair of eyes locked on my own. I sang all the verses. Then, I sang “The Old Rugged Cross”. And still their attention never wavered.
As I always did, I said goodbye to each one, touching a hand or a shoulder, and left the room. Joy commented that she had never seen them grow still and give their attention to anyone for so long, except when being fed.
As I drove home the ‘little girls’ rode with me. I couldn’t get them out of my mind. How I wanted to reach them, to give more than just a song. Out of that first experience came a song that I used in many programs and concerts. If you would like to hear it, just follow the url to Youtube.
I never sang that song to the women in the Little Girls’ Room. But it was an integral part of the programs I gave to volunteer groups for nursing homes, to Mother’s Day banquets and to rooms full of phschycologists, health care workers and professors. I told the story of how music unlocks the soul and, for a few moments, lets it fly free. Of how much God loves them and watches over the ‘Little Girls’ in Neverland.