Author: Ramos, Jean

Sharing the Gift

Many years ago when I was a girl of thirteen, it was necessary for me to leave the comfort of my “nest” on the Hoopa Indian Reservation and I went to live in New York with an aunt and uncle who were “Rank Strangers” to me. As you might imagine, the transition was not an easy one. I’ll spare you the details of my period of misery and tell you about what I did to make my life not only bearable but worth living.

My uncle was in the Coast Guard and during his off duty hours; he liked to play guitar and sing. There were several of his shipmates who also enjoyed picking and singing so he had frequent jams at the house. Country Music was their choice; Hank and Lefty, Ray Price, Hank Snow, etc. Being a teenager, I was a devoted fan of American Bandstand and was more interested in the music of Elvis, Ricky Nelson, Everly Brothers and the Platters.

When I turned 14, my uncle bought himself a Silvertone Electric guitar and amplifier and gave me his old Recording King, a beauty with a sunburst front, F holes and electric pick-up. He made some chord charts for me and left me on my own to teach myself because he didn’t care much for my new fangled rock ‘n roll music.

I would go off in a room by myself and sing for hours, thinking it was some kind of magic that I could sing so many songs using just three chords. I sang when I was lonely, I sang when I was angry, I sang when I was happy… not knowing then that it was the music that was bringing the joy back to my life. Music and time can heal a lot of hurt. Though I would not want to go through that dark time of my life again, I can see how it has enhanced my singing. They say you can’t sing the blues if you never had ‘em. Perhaps it’s true.

I recently became Facebook Friends with a 13-year-old girl from my church. I noticed one day that she had a photo of a guitar for her profile picture. I wrote and asked her if she could play it. She said she could play two songs but she would really like to learn to play. She also told me that she loves to sing but she usually only sings to her horse, she’s shy about singing in front of people.

I have begun meeting with my friend Taylor for guitar and singing lessons. I look forward to watching her discover the joy that music can bring to her life as well as the joy she can bring to others through music. She already knows several chords and it was fun to see her face light up when she realized all the songs she can sing with just the few chords she knows. We also played a game of listening for chord changes. I sang a song and she was to raise her hand when she thought I should change the chord. No problem, she got it every time.

My guitar picking and singing have carried me through many mountains and valleys in my life and I’m thankful to be able to pass the gift along to my young friend. She likes singing gospel music and I know she will put her talent to good use. When I went to her house for her first lesson, she came down the stairs carrying a couple baby sparrows wrapped in a piece of cloth. Their mother had abandoned them. It reminded me of the old gospel song, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” The chorus goes like this: “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free, His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.” God Bless.
Posted:  6/23/2013

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