I was recently privileged to view a wonderful, well-done video detailing the life of Marian Anderson, the African American contralto who deserved and won worldwide acclaim as a concert soloist. It has been said that Marian Anderson didn’t simply grow great; she grew great simply. Despite her fame, she somehow managed to remain the same gracious, approachable lady. Never one to put on airs, she was, according to those who knew her best, “a beautiful model of humility.”
A reporter, while interviewing Ms. Anderson, asked her to name the greatest moment in her life. She had known so many great moments. The choice seemed to be a difficult one to others who were gathered in the room that day. For example:
*There was the night when Conductor Arturo Toscanini announced, “A voice like hers comes along once in a century.”
*Furthermore, in 1955, she became the first Black ever to sing with the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York.
*The following year, her autobiography, My Lord, What A Morning, was published and became a best seller.
*In 1958, she became a United States delegate to the United Nations.
*On several occasions in her illustrious career, she received medals and awards from various countries around the world.
*Then there was the memorable occasion when she gave a private concert at the White House for President and Mrs. Roosevelt and the King and Queen of England.
*Her hometown, Philadelphia had, on one occasion, awarded her the $10,000.00 Bok Award as the person who had done the most for that city.
*And in 1963 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
*To top it all, there was that Easter Sunday in Washington, D. C. when she stood beneath the statue of Abraham Lincoln and sang for a crowd of 75,000, which included members of the Cabinet, Supreme Court Justices, and most of the members of Congress.
So …which of these “great moments” did she choose as the greatest moment of her life? None of them. Hesitating but for a brief moment, Marian Anderson told the reporter that the greatest moment in her life, according to the video, was when she went home and told her mother that she would not have to work as a hotel maid any longer. Another account states that she told her mother that she would not have to take in washing any more. Either account is very touching.
Isn’t it interesting that for most of us, the truly “great moments” in life don’t have so much to do with honors or promotions or salary increases or purchases or possessions as they do with the special times in the lives of those we love. Moreover, isn’t it also true that the greatest joys we ever receive in life come from the simple things and the little victories.
For example, whereas I have received many gifts at Christmas over the years, no gift will ever mean as much to me as a bicycle I received when I was eleven years old. In truth, the bike had to be shared between me and my younger sister. As two of nine children, we had never expected or received very much at Christmas, usually a small, inexpensive gift. As one might expect, my gift under the tree was usually a book. But a bicycle! It was far and away the most-costly gift any of the nine children had ever received at Christmas. My incredulity and joy were quickly followed by the painful realization that my parents could not really afford it. I woke them up with tears in my eyes and thanked them. Then I begged them to please take back the bike and give me and my sister much-less-expensive gifts. They refused to take it back, of course, and reassured us of how dearly they wanted us to have it. It was such a precious gift.
The greatest gifts are those that come at great cost and those we could never pay for ourselves. Our redemption, our personal salvation, is such a gift. God gave us that which was very dear and that which we could not provide for ourselves. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but should have everlasting life.” That’s a lot of love!