Some of God’s Best Blessings Are “Background Blessings”


“Music with dinner,” writes G. K. Chesterton, “is an insult both to the cook and the violinist.”

In wordsmithing and logic, no one beats Chesterton, and I think he’s right on this subject at hand, more often than not. If the musician is not very musical. If the violin or guitar or whatever is too loud or too close to your table and your ear.

If the music and the menu are mismatched, that can lead to indigestion, too. You don’t sing “You’re the Hangnail of My Life” at a classy Italian restaurant. (It’s pretty hard to imagine a venue that song would help much.) And heavy metal doesn’t aid digestion. Or much else.

But, with apologies to Chesterton, and with your indulgence as I’m obviously short on column ideas this week, I beg to differ just a bit in a minor key and on a personal note.

I’m asked pretty regularly to croon a tune or two at dinner meetings and programs. If I’m the program, that means I’ll usually have thirty minutes or so to divvy up between singing and talking about the songs or whatever. For a guy who loves to sing, loves music, and enjoys telling stories about life and music, thirty minutes is a starvation diet, but I try to make it work.

If our program time is limited, I like it when my hosts ask me also to provide a little—sorry G. K.—dinner music and I become the vocal “violinist.” I think I’ve learned a little about how not to mess with the cook’s meal or the diners’ digestion.

First, you let folks know that you know your job. “During the meal, I’ll provide a little music, but keep right on visiting. Right now, I’m background and nothing more. Bon appetit!”

Then you turn up the volume and kick in with “Thank God and Greyhound She’s Gone!”

No, just the opposite. You turn the volume down, and here’s the trick: During dinner you stick almost exclusively with smooth, soft songs they know and enjoy having in the background. If you foolishly force stuff on them they have to work to listen to, well, that’s just annoying, and it messes with their meal and dinner conversation. At program time, I know they’ll give me both ears. I can wait, and I’ll try to give them some songs worthy of the gift. Then they’ll consciously listen.

Both parts of the experience are fun, I think. I like the program part, but I also enjoy getting to help folks just sit back, relax, enjoy what the cook’s done, and tune into each other. That’s the kind of time our world needs more of. Anytime we can add anything at all to a little beauty, joy, and peace, that’s a blessing.

Come to think of it, some of the best blessings of God are “background blessings.” They don’t break in and demand our attention. They’re not firework flashy. They’re just quietly there. Beauty and joy and peace. Real. Present. Rich. Filling the background spaces of our lives. His flavor. His music.


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Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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