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No Other People's Children

Cover image by Agnes Grochulska
www.agnesgrochulska.com

A song of reconciliation which affirms the belovedness of all people
Commissioned by Unity Church-Unitarian / Ruth Palmer
Poet/Lyricist: 
Elizabeth Alexander

No Other People's Children is a blessing and a bridge, a song of reconciliation that affirms the worth and dignity of anyone we might be tempted to see as "other." Explicitly acknowledging past suffering, alienation and mistakes, everyone present is invited to speak the truth, take a chance, and "begin again."

On the final refrain the audience/congregation is invited to sing along, offering one another the promise of forgiveness and right relationship. The audience/congregation part is included in each musical score, and may be reprinted or projected for this purpose.

The flexible voicing of this song enables it to be performed by ANY singing ensemble, or even by a soloist. The score includes optional repeats and an alternate ending, allowing performers some choice about the duration of this song.

 

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No Other People's Children

Elizabeth Alexander

How did we get to this place
Where we could look at each other’s face
And see anything but beauty and understanding?
I want to know who you are,
And face the suffering that keeps us far apart    
I can never truly see the world through your eyes
Or take away your pain,
But I’m listening, and I’m hoping you can hear me saying:

You are my neighbor. You are beloved.
You are worth seeing for who you are.
You are my neighbor. You are beloved.
You are worth seeing for who you are.
I’m here, I’m listening, I’m here listening with you:

Break bread with me.
Make peace with me.
Speak the truth with me.
Begin again with me.
Relate with me.
Create with me.
Be the change with me
That keeps our children safe and free:
There are no other people’s heartaches.
There are no other people’s injuries.
There are no other people’s children in this world.

See what is unseen,
Say what is unspoken,
Believe that there’s no wall between our beating hearts.

You are my neighbor. You are beloved.
You are worth seeing for who you are.
You are my neighbor. You are beloved.
You are worth seeing for who you are.
I’m here, I’m listening, I’m here listening with you:

Hold hands with me.
Forgive with me.
Make mistakes with me,
And take a chance with me.
Be whole with me.    
Be real with me.
Start to heal with me
So we can live courageously.
There are no other people’s heartaches.
There are no other people’s injuries.
There are no other people’s children in this world.

Composer's Note: 

One exciting aspect of this commission was getting to weave themes from my own church’s mission, ministry and outreach right into the lyrics. This process reminded me how lucky I am to hear the language of love, struggle and change on a regular basis from the pulpit, at church meetings and in fellowship gatherings.

In some cases, a familiar phrase written by our ministers Rev. Rob and Janne Eller-Isaacs became the seed for a lyric. For example, Rob’s ritual “A Litany of Atonement,” which the congregation participates in each year at Yom Kippur, contains this refrain: “I forgive myself. I forgive you. We begin again in love.”

In crafting other lyrics, I distilled complex ideas into a few carefully chosen words. One example of this, “You are my neighbor. You are beloved...”, reflects our congregation’s core commitment to making the Beloved Community a reality in our time.

As I composed this piece, it was impossible not to be inspired by my church’s partnership with Above Every Name, the predominantly African-American congregation that shares both our sanctuary and our vision of a more just and inclusive world. That is why, when I was told I could compose this piece for any one of my church’s four choirs, I chose all of the choirs and the congregation as well, giving everyone the chance to express the sacrament of bridge building in song.

Performers: 

* PREMIERE: Choirs & Congregations of Unity Church-Unitarian / Ruth Palmer (St. Paul, MN)

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