Commentary: Music of Crying Babies

By Edward P. Noga

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When I was in the seminary 50 years ago, the aspiring priests helped out on weekends at various parishes in the Cincinnati-Dayton area.

It was a great opportunity to experience parish life in these communities, in various neighborhoods and among diverse cultures. I loved it.

One weekend I was assigned to St. Mary parish in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Cincinnati. Its spacious Gothic church stands out as a beacon. One Sunday there, it seemed that an unusually large number of infants decided to start “singing” as the pastor delivered his homily.

Their sounds seemed coordinated and began to drown out the pastor’s words. The infants’ parents were squeamish. Some of the long-time parishioners were somewhat annoyed and many had a slight smile and began to chuckle because it seemed the pastor and babies were in a staged competition. At one point, the crying began to subside. The pastor paused for a while. Their cries abated and the filled church anticipated what he would say next since he was the one with a microphone.

And his comment was, “Wow! Isn’t it great to hear the future of the church singing and telling us, ‘We’re here.’ ” A few in the congregation laughed. Many clapped. The parents involved breathed a sigh of relief and we all left feeling the moment was part of that particular Sunday morning.

“Crying babies” or “The sound of the future”? Guess it depends on how you look at it.

At the ninth annual Federal Frenzy, held recently and sponsored by Youngstown State University, several bands from all over northeastern Ohio displayed their talent. Many were young newcomers to the music scene. The bands who were more seasoned veterans were ecstatic that music was indeed being played live by the young, energetic performers.

The planning and venue committees, many of the workers and parking/traffic attendants and various pop-up booths with sale items and refreshments were manned by young students and other entrepreneurs. The youthful energy reminded me of the pastor proclaiming 50 years ago what the babies were announcing in church that spring Sunday: “We’re here!”

Along the “We’re here!” line, we also benefit from a plethora of speech, robotics, gymnastics, artistic, theatrical, scholastic and sporting events that show off (in the best sense of the phrase) the energy and creativity of those coming up behind us.

Behind this massive amount of energy are the mentors, guides and teachers who encourage and watch over this potential. We hope this energy will inform and invigorate our communities as the youth of today step into the leadership roles that will guide our Valley down the road.

It will be those crying babies who soon will continue to clean up and restore the rivers and streams that run through our Valley. The new political leaders and educational professionals will build on today’s true progress and, we hope, set aside the divisiveness and lack of civility that too often enter public discussion.

Unfortunately, there are too many tragedies that compete with our energy and drag us down. It might be good for us, the next time we hear crying babies, to think about their future and the path we are paving for them.

A few weeks back, a local production of “Rent” introduced us to some very talented and youthful actors and technicians. Similar entertainment happens regularly at the YSU, Akron and Kent State campuses, as well as on stage at the colleges just a short drive from the Valley.

And how about The Little Rascals from Easy Street Productions? Youthful talent and energy abounds.

Our focus and initiatives will make their lives better so their talents and energy can continue the upward spiral of community growth. With the emphasis on keeping our young people here and repopulating our workforce, we are blessed indeed.

The other day, a few school buses dropped off dozens of young middle-school students with their teachers and chaperones. I don’t know what the occasion was, although they were heading in the direction of Powers Auditorium and the Tyler History Center on West Federal Street in the heart of downtown.

The sun was shining as they walked single file along the sidewalk. Their steps were high, almost as if they were dancing. Smiles abounded as they made their way.

Wherever they were headed, they were going there with enthusiasm, good spirits and eager minds.

Once, they too were “crying babies.”