This week my wife Joan and I (Ray) are traveling to the Navy Musicians Association Annual Reunion. I’m telling you this because it’s part of a story of a personal hope fulfilled. At the age of 14 the only thing I hoped for was to graduate from high school, pass the audition at the U.S.Navy School of Music, and become a Navy Musician. I had only three years, starting from scratch, to become proficient enough on the clarinet and saxophone to pass the audition. All my practicing paid off. I passed. I enlisted in the Navy, went to boot camp, and began attending the Navy School of Music. Then I had one more hope. In order to continue as a Navy Musician I had to reach a much higher level of proficiency and pass another audition about six months later. If I passed I would be assured I would spend my remaining years in the Navy as a musician. If I didn’t pass, I would lose my musician rate and there was no telling what the Navy would do with me. My hope was again fulfilled and for the next three years I served in bands on ships and shore duty in places around the world. After leaving the Navy I moved on to other kinds of employment.
Now I’ll fast forward about 40 years. I was a pastor in a United Methodist Church. There came a time when I was feeling discouraged about my service at the church. There were some areas of my work that were not going the way I believed they ought to go. I was feeling kind of hopeless about accomplishing anything worth while as a pastor. This was just a lot of bad news to me. One way I tried to tune it out was to reminisce about the good old days when I was a Navy Musician. I remembered playing in the bands, especially the 17 piece big bands, which played the popular jazz and swing oriented music of those times. Today these bands are often called stage bands.
As I looked back to those days, I thought that the one thing I hoped I could do just one more time in my life on this earth, was to play in a big band again, as I did in the Navy all those years ago. But I knew that was just wishful thinking. It would never happen. I could listen to the music of the big bands on my records and tapes, and occasionally attend a concert, but I knew I could never again play in a big band. There was no point in hoping.
My reminiscing wasn’t just about the music. It was also about remembering my fellow musician shipmates. It would really be good to see some of them again. But how would I ever find them? Just some more wishful thinking. No hope there. But I heard that there were ways of finding people on the internet. So I tried some web-sites that had to do with the U.S.military. I wasn’t getting anywhere. I was just about to give up, when I came across a web-site that had to do with the U.S.Navy, which in turn had a link to the U.S.Navy School of Music, which in turn had a link to something called the Navy Musicians Association. I brought up that web-site and saw the list of members, including about six guys who I served with. Their e-mail and home addresses were listed, so I got in touch with them. They all responded and we brought each other up to date on what had been happening in our lives over the past 40 years. Hope fulfilled
The next thing I knew I was in touch with the secretary of the organization about becoming a member. I didn’t know him, but he was very helpful. He explained that I could join for $25 a year. He told me about the annual reunion, which in April of 2001 was being held in Virginia Beach, right near one of the bases where I had served. This was only about eight hours from my home in New Jersey. I decided to attend and see some of the guys from the old days in person again. It would be the next best thing to playing in a band with them again. As I said, I had given up hope of that ever happening. I then asked the secretary what went on at the reunion. He told me – “We play music. Everyone is invited to play. It doesn’t matter how good you play. Everybody that wants to play gets to play. We form a concert band, a jazz combo, and a big band.” And yes, I could play in the big band.
Three months later, in April, Joan and I arrived at the hotel in Virginia Beach. We got settled in our room, and I made my way to the room where the big band was rehearsing. I took a seat and listened to the sounds coming from those guys. This wasn’t a recording, or a memory. This was live – here and now. Tears came to my eyes. About 15 minutes later I found my way, with my saxophone, to the bandstand, and was once again doing what I had told myself over and over again, could never happen. More than that, this wasn’t just a one time thing. I could do this again and again, at every reunion. And I will do it again this week.
There are some things you hope for that will never be fulfilled. But on the other hand, there are some hopes, like the one I just told you about, that you might believe will never be fulfilled – and one day –“surprise!” – you experience the fulfillment of that hope. God arranges for it to happen. Based on my experience, I can tell you – Don’t give up hope. Never say never.
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site.This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.