Growing up, I loved the summer days I spent hanging out in church auxiliary rooms at Vacation Bible School. If you're not familiar, VBS is essentially a week-long day camp where you make craft projects and play games and learn some Bible stories.
And you sing.
At the end of each day of Vacation Bible School at my Methodist church, we'd file into the pews in the little chapel and sing camp songs. This was my favorite part.
This was the part where your teacher might put her hand up to her ear in the universal sign for I Can't Hear You, Please Shout At The Top Of Your Lungs. And fifteen little seven year olds would gleefully throw their heads back and yell out the words to This Little Light of Mine until they were hoarse.
As an adult, you're expected to hit the right note and keep your voice as clear and soft and in tune as the voices around you. As an adult, you're expected to regulate. Don't get me wrong - I love singing in choirs and making beautiful music. I love harmonizing and the goose bumps that come from a perfectly executed pianissimo.
But shout-singing, that realm of the uninhibited child, has always felt a bit like prayer to me.
One of my favorites was a call-and-response style number with these words:
This is the day
That the Lord has made
Let us rejoice
And be glad in it.
I taught it to my wife early on in our relationship by shout-singing it one morning to pump myself up before classes. By then I had changed "the Lord" to "God" in my own rendition. It didn't take Navah long to learn the basic tune, and it quickly became a staple get-pumped-for-the-day song around our house. One of us takes the leader lines, the other repeats back with gusto, and when we get to the words that call for unison, we each try to sing-shout louder than the other as I yell THIS IS THE DAY THAT GOD HAS MADE and she yells THIS IS THE DAY THAT HASHEM HAS MADE (because that's how you do interfaith right). Jammer wags his tail.
It's silly, and it's also my most joyful prayer. It's a thank you to God (who or whatever I believe that to be on my ever-evolving faith journey) for this exact day, a reminder to myself that there is hope and possibility in the act of waking up to a new sunrise, that there is something inherently magical about being alive to experience this life, that happy shouting is a heart opener.
When I started thinking about a project for over the doorway in our main living space, I knew immediately what I wanted - a symbol not just of the potential in every day, but of the joyful exuberance of the little seven-year-old I still have inside me.
I painted and stained this wood board with the line THIS IS THE DAY over the weekend, and when I stepped back from hanging it up, I squealed and giggled involuntarily.
This is the day.
p.s. Another of my favorite childhood songs.