Knowing the Psalm

Here’s a great story from Terry Pearce’s Leading out Loud. Actor Charles Laughton was attending a large family Christmas party. The host asks each guest in turn to recite a favourite passage they associate with Christmas.

Laughton’s turn came near the end and he recited in his beatifully trained voice the Twenty-third Psalm. Everyone applauded his effort, and the process continued. Within a few minutes, everyone had participated apart from an elderly aunt, who had dozed off in a corner of the room. The family gently woke her, explained what was going on , and asked her to take part. She thought for a moment, and then began in her shaky voice, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…” The room hushed as she continued, and when she finished, tears were dripping down every face.

Upon leaving, one of the younger members of the family thanked Laughton for coming and remarked on the difference in the response of the family to the two recitations – in one case, appreciation; in the other, deep connection and involvement. “How do you account for it?” asked the young man, shaking his head. Laughton looked at him and remarked simply, “I know the psalm; she knows the Shepherd.”

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