Faithful Living: Blessed routines build peace

Do you know the story of Mr. Martin Tanner, the owner of a dry cleaning shop in Dayton, Ohio?

He is the fictional character of a memorable song recorded in the ‘70s by American balladeer, Harry Chapin. As the story goes, Mr. Tanner not only owned the best dry cleaning shop in down, but he brought joy to his family, friends, and customers by sharing his God-given talent: he sang as only a fine baritone can sing.

In the song we learn that Mr. Tanner “practiced scales while pressing tales and sang for local shows.”

Over the years his ever-growing crowd of supporters urged him to take his talent to greater heights. And after tortured consideration, he hired a New York City concert agent and used most of his savings to rent a modest hall. Following exhaustive preparation he sang to a house filled half way and to a score of critics in attendance.

The following morning Mr. Tanner eagerly opened the papers to read his reviews, only to learn what he had feared most: He was good but not good enough. “Full-time consideration of another endeavor might be in order,” one critic wrote.

We learn that Mr. Tanner never sang again — except late at night when the shop was dark and closed. He sang softly to himself, as he sorted out the clothes. And in that bittersweet way as only Chapin’s song explains life, we learn that this is not a story of defeat. After all, Mr. Tanner came home with a greater gift — an understanding about his life that rose out of the ashes of defeat: talents, interests and passions can be a gift from God, given to bring depth and joy to our lives and to the lives of those around us.

Music was his life, not his livelihood,

It made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good.

He sang from his heart and he sang from his soul.

He did not know how well he sang, it just made him whole.

What do you enjoy doing that makes you feel whole? What constructive activities help you to combat your worries and stresses? What clears your head, allowing your heart and soul to sing?

These are the questions I often ask people who are elderly or who have reached great heights in their careers. Beyond mention of things like tenacity or personal focus or sacrifice, beyond personal faith, Bible reading and prayer, I invariably hear about a hobby, talent, or activity that helps to bring balance and harmony into their lives.

Bob restores cars. Suzanne accompanies students who participate in music competitions. Dan plants trees. Rose Ann quilts. Patsy cross stitches. Bill builds model trains. Jane gardens. Corrine breeds dogs. John coaches track. Rusty directs local theater productions. Windy designs beaded bracelets. Caitlin draws.

I truly believe that one of the best ways to feel the presence and touch of God is to identify, celebrate and participate in a regular activity that facilitates your own creativity and growth. Gone is the stress of having to make a living from your hobby. Gone is the drive for absolute performance. Present each time you dive into your hobby is the opportunity to expand your experiences, find a quiet place to think your own thoughts, link with others who share your interests, entertain private dreams, and experience a blessed routine.

But perhaps one of the best outcomes of setting aside time on a regular basis to enjoy a hobby is the joy it can bring others. How sweet it has been for me to ride in one of Bob’s restored vintage cars or watch Katie love on her horse as she grooms him for a show. Why, I tuck myself under one of Rose Ann’s quilts at some point every day and the beauty of Patsy’s cross stitching has added richly to the décor and atmosphere of my home.

Who cares if the laundry remains in that basket, unwashed just one more day? There is a tree to plant and a dog to show. There’s a cake to bake and a scrapbook page to design. There is a choir in need of your alto voice and a square dancer in need of a partner.

Embracing a hobby and celebrating deeply personal creativity and joy — it will make you whole.

Freelance writer Joan Bay Klope’s e-mail address is

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