January 24, 2021
We had just moved from England back to the States to start a Waldorf School in Wisconsin. Our boys had just completed two wonderful years at the oldest Steiner school in Great Britain, and we were all adjusting to being back in America. Of course, that included finding a pizza place not far from where we lived! It was a quaint little pub, and in one corner stood an old-fashioned juke box. Our littlest one, freshly nine years old would ask please for a quarter. You might imagine my surprise when he returned to our booth and soon I heard the grand and wonderful voice of Louis Armstrong singing What a Wonderful World. Oh, I thought, someone else’s request is playing before my son’s will start. No. This was the song he had chosen and continued to choose every single time we returned to that pub.
How he even came to know this song, I cannot say. Perhaps the title simply attracted him. Clearly it struck a chord in his young soul. The timeless lyrics can lift and inspire each of us to this day. There is nothing untrue in a single line. In the midst of chaos, in the midst of unrest, in the midst of uncertainty, in the midst of loneliness, in the midst of yearning for goodness, beauty and truth to reign in our culture, in our world, we can still find and experience the encounters Louis is crooning about. Yes, there are places where the environment seems at risk of losing sight of the blue skies, the green grass, the red roses. Yes, if we are not careful, we can lose the sacred act of shaking hands, the exchange of heart forces in a hug, and the beauty of a smiling face. However, we can also make choices so that these things do not happen – that we care and tend to the environment, that we care and tend to each other’s emotional needs, that we look up to the sky and clouds and remember our eternal connection to the heavens.
We each carry our own history. Or herstory or my-story or our-story or even The-story! All exist and all are significant. It is when we start to move beyond my-story and open to the possibility of our collective human story (our-story), The-story that holds the infinite wisdom of what was, what is and what shall be, that we begin to recognize that the things Louis is singing about are foundational to being alive. They comprise what we can forthrightly call “a wonderful world”.
I want to share with you a quote from Dr. Rudolf Steiner 114 years ago: “Instead of bringing a worn-out human being to a sanitarium [a convalescent home], it were far better to bring him into an environment where he would be happy, at first soul-happy, but also physically happy. When you put a human being into an environment of joy, in which, with each step he takes, an inner feeling of joy awakes, that it is which will make him healthy; when, for example, he sees sunbeams streaming through the trees and perceives the colors and scents of flowers.” Let us become stewards of our own and each other’s soul happiness. For when we can awaken once again to joy, we begin to heal ourselves, our communities, our wonderful world.
Many years after that first night in the pub, life offered me a most beautiful memory to hold forever in my-story. The music began to play, my son stepped forward to take my hand, and we danced the mother-son dance at his wedding, “What a Wonderful World.”