The “Amen! Hallelujah!” Moments


One of my all-time favorite songs is You Can Call Me Al from Paul Simon’s Graceland album.  That entire album is a masterpiece, but You Can Call Me Al has always particularly captured me.  The irresistible driving beat of the bass and the bright hits of the trumpet always take me by the hand, pulling me to my feet, making it impossible for me not to dance.  That song is kind of my happy place.  But behind the upbeat tune, Simon’s lyrics voice deep insecurity.  He paints a portrait of a man living a life that, although comfortable and sheltered, is void of fulfillment.  In the first verse, he voices dissatisfaction, fear, and longing to live a life that counts:

“I need a photo opportunity

I want a shot at redemption

Don’t want to end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard”

I definitely have moments when I fear becoming nothing more than “a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard.”  What if my million-dollar education is wasted?  What if I never make something meaningful of myself?  What am I supposed to be doing with my life???

But by the last verse, our unhappy protagonist seems to have lost his fears and found his meaning.  This verse in particular touches me and speaks to my experience in Spain and Morocco:

“A man walks down the street

It’s a street in a strange world

Maybe it’s the third world

Maybe it’s his first time around

He doesn’t speak the language

He holds no currency

He is a foreign man

He is surrounded by the sound, the sound

Cattle in the marketplace

Scatterlings and orphanages

He looks around, around

He sees angels in the architecture

Spinning in infinity

He says, ‘Amen!’ and ‘Hallelujah!’”

This song reminds me of the redemption of travel and my own memories of gazing in wonderment at the markets, the orphanage, the architecture, and finding my own moments of “Amen!” “Hallelujah!” gratitude.  This September was my “first time around” in a country some would consider “third world”.  I barely spoke the language and held little currency, but I immediately fell in love with Spain and Morocco and all the moments along the way that forced me to stretch and grow.  We can sometimes feel stuck in our little corner of the world, where self-centeredness and self-pity are easily found, but this journey yanked me out of my comfort zone and opened my eyes to a whole new world.  Although my senses were constantly bombarded with the unfamiliar, my heart somehow felt at home, and I was continually reminded that home is not always what is familiar and comfortable, but is sometimes just a common space of learning, love, and gratitude.

I found home in the sensory chaos of the Tangier market,


in the peacefulness of the beach in Asilah,


in the exquisite grandeur of the cathedrals,


in the friendships formed in Meknes,


in the grabbing hands and seeking hearts of our brothers and sisters at the orphanage,


in the gracious hospitality and community at the family farm.


I found home in these moments; these were the moments that made me say “Amen!” and “Hallelujah!”


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