It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me. ~ Fanny CrosbyNyssa had to write her first term paper in third grade. Mrs. Campbell taught the children to do the research, bibliography, note cards, outline and the final five page paper. Each student picked an historical figure as the subject. After the paper was finished, she had them write a short two minute summary of their paper. The class then gave the annual History program. Each child dressed as his/her historical figure and gave the short summary of their paper. These short speeches were interspersed with musical pieces also performed by members of the class who were piano students.
Nyssa picked Fanny Crosby, probably the best known and most prolific of all hymn writers. She was blind from the age of six months and yet wrote the words to over 8,000 hymns including: He Hideth My Soul, Tell Me the Story of Jesus, Blessed Assurance and my personal favorite, To God Be the Glory.
To God Be the GloryNyssa made an A on her paper and in the process learned a lot about a wonderful woman, history in general and the process and steps to write a paper. She also learned to summarize and give a short speech. As Nyssa was the best piano student in her class (actually she won the best piano student award all six years in elementary) she was to play two piano pieces, one at the beginning of the program and a number to end the program. She was especially excited because her Uncle Stephen was going to come. He traveled with the Chicago Company of Phantom of the Opera and had never been able to get to Mississippi for a piano recital or any special program. This time was staying with us for eight weeks while recovering from back surgery, so he could come.
To God be the glory, great things He has done;
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
And opened the life gate that all may go in.
O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
To every believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.
Great things He has taught us, great things He has done,
And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;
But purer, and higher, and greater will be
Our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory, great things He has done.
We got together her costume and added a cane, dark glasses and a white wig. The only problem we thought of was that Nyssa wears glasses and without them she is very, very near-sighted. She knew her speech from memory so she didn't need them then but she did need them for the piano numbers. So I made a little matching draw string purse. The plan was to play her first number, sit back down on the platform and switch her glasses for her dark sunglasses putting the real ones in her purse, deliver her speech, sit back down and SWITCH the sunglasses for her real ones to be ready for the piano piece at the end.
That's the thing about plans with a child. Don't count on it. Everything seemed to be going well. Stephen and I were in the balcony where I was videoing the program. Her first piece "Turkey in the Straw" went well and she switched her glasses out with plenty of time to spare. She delivered her speech flawlessly and returned to her seat. Then it fell apart. I kept saying to myself, "Get your glasses out of the purse. Change the sunglasses. Glasses. Glasses." Nyssa sat there. No move to even open the little purse. Soon it was time for the ending piece. I thought she would surely take the purse with her. No. She hopped up and walked over to the piano bench and sat down, the purse left in her seat on stage.
The dark glasses were still in place on her nose. She adjusted her book, adjusted the bench and placed her hands on the keys. Then I knew she was in trouble as she hunched over and squinted at the page, her eyes (with dark glasses) about four inches from the book moving her head back and forth and a bit from side to side. She couldn't see the notes. It might have helped a little if she would just take the sunglasses off, but this didn't cross her mind either.
Stephen also saw what was happening. He turned to me and said, "If she keeps on with the bobbing and swaying Stevie Wonder motion when she starts playing, I will fall out on the floor and start laughing out loud." Of course she would be playing "The Maple Leaf Rag".
She made it through, barely. Stephen only chuckled quietly. And me? I stared at the little purse with the forgotten glasses and breathed a sigh of relief.