• My first Music that Makes Community board meeting was on a Saturday morning after what had been a long, hard week at work. A colleague and I had different expectations about a deadline, and as I watched that time come and go without the desired end result, I felt disappointed, then blamed, then just done. My conversations that evening with my spouse were peppered with some of my favorite vocabulary words, and I felt validated and vindicated as I turned up the “not my fault–they’re to blame!” tune in my head to 11!

    Needless to say, with this as my evening prior, I was not entering the MMC virtual space with the calm and equanimity I usually experience with the group. My distress increased when I looked over the agenda and saw we would be invited to share a song. “I don’t even have a song! My first meeting and I’m showing up without a song!”

    I grabbed a pen and a piece of paper, hummed for a few minutes, and this is what appeared:

    We are all doing our best
    We are all doing our best
    When fears are rising
    And tempers are flying
    We are all doing our best

    We are all doing our best
    We are all doing our best
    Let's care for each other
    Be held by Our Mother
    We are all doing our best

    - Jennifer L. Sanborn and the Spirit of Song, 1/27/2024
    (and probably Chanda Rule's In the Heart of God, as I think about it!)

    Oof. I felt seen. Or heard. Or called out. Or Loved in. Regardless, I knew I had caught my song to share with the group.

    As the board gathered, I volunteered to share first because it’s hard not to fear a quickly-caught song will fly away as fast as it flew in. Somewhat timidly, then with greater strength, I invited these new boardmates to join me in singing, “We are all doing our best.” Could there be a better affirmation to sing when venturing into new, treasured, complex, and important work together?



    The song became a mantra of sorts, and I would hum it while preparing dinner in the kitchen (and wondering why a family member had left the dishwasher unloaded). I sometimes sang it full voice in the minutes before joining a Zoom meeting with one of those colleagues I had, ahem, often thought might not be doing their best. When I realized how alive those feelings were in me, I intoned it as a question to myself: “Am I doing my best? And does the best for me always look like the best for or from my colleagues?”

    I assumed the song would be a private resource for me in my work and relationships, but when the colleague from the start of this story asked me to close a session at our in-person all-company gathering, it came back to me.

    After a few remarks about the work before us, I taught just the opening line, “We are all doing our best.” We repeated it a few times, and I invited the room to divide and sing it to one another. And I challenged us to remember this simple truth as we approach some difficult, collaborative tasks before us.

    I had to smile at the next break when my colleague came to me and embraced me in a hug. “Thank you–that was perfect.” I confessed that our Friday failure had been the inspiration–and this confession invited a deeper, more intentional conversation about how we had missed the mark on our goal and misunderstood one another on our way there.

    Throughout the week people would sometimes refer to the song in our company conversations: “In the spirit of ‘we are all doing our best,’ I want to acknowledge that we missed something here, and I appreciate those who are telling us this with grace.” On breaks people would engage the song at deeper levels: “But what if we’re not all doing our best?” “Honestly, can you believe that, looking at what is happening in the world?” I shared that the song is one part aspiration, one part invitation to curiosity: “What is happening to, for, or in this person to make this their best in this moment?”

    By the end of the week, I shared the song in full, and I’m singing it still–as challenge, question, possibility, reminder–grateful to be in a community that opens ourselves to new music and new understanding.

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Music that Makes Community
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