Our coffee companions raise me up:  a Thanksgiving tribute

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, October 9, 2014

Come, sit at my table for a while and letís continue raising each other up.

I haven’t been able to find out much about this talented six-year-old singer from Hong Kong, but I sure know this much: she really raises me up so I can stand on mountains.

She also reminds me of what you, my readers, do for me, cup by cup, as you sit a while with me in our wonderful coffee shops, actual and virtual, classrooms for my soul.

Celine Tam’s mesmerizing performance of “You Raise Me Up” was brought to my attention recently by Calgary coffee companion Jeanne Hammer. Please, if you’re able to do so, pause here before you read any further and experience these three minutes of wonder for yourselves. Click here.

(If you choose to search for it on Google, this particular rendition is the one of Celine Tam dressed in a pink gown. This is by far the best.)

Centre stage, aglow in the spotlights, and microphone in hand, Celine breaks forth in those memorable lines:

When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary;
When troubles come and my heart burdened be;
Then I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit awhile with me.

Her father, singing prodigy master Dr. Steve Tam, is pictured from time to time directing her from the sidelines drawing beauty from his daughter like a magician as she continues with the refrain:

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up to more than I can be.

Celine began her voice training when she was only three, Dr. Tam says. “I usually teach her always having a goal in her life and follow her goal,” he says, “targeting to reach the goal and also the most important is never give up. This is her wish to use of her singing to make everyone happy and warm.”

Well, she has absolutely succeeded in doing just that for me.

In fact, I understand it was this goal of encouragement that inspired the song’s composer Rolf Lovland and lyricist Brendan Graham to create “You Raise Me Up” in 2001. But it wasn’t till Josh Groban popularized it a few years later that it really took off, his rendition making the top on Billboard in 2004.

Since then it has been embraced by both secular and religious audiences and is often sung as a hymn by those who hear in it an echo of Psalm 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

I, too, sense this hymnic spirituality about it. But I understand it in a very special way: Most often, it seems to me, God is at work through the people around us. In my particular case as a columnist, I have come to sense that uplifting quality through you folks who join me over coffee or respond to my columns by email.

You, as God’s agents, sustain me when my soul is weary or when I’m tossed about in the sometimes stormy voyage of life.

Or maybe you just pull up a chair when you see me around town in one of the coffee shops and share with me how our other coffee companions, through these columns, have sustained you and encouraged you to never give up.

It’s really all about being present to each other. Here are just three of the ways I’ve experienced the uplifting gift of your presence:

Friendliness. I think this is a signature feature of life in Cochrane. But for me, one of our coffee companions deserves special mention, and it’s on his shoulders that I’m learning to stand. I’m thinking of Cochrane old-timer Walter Wearmouth, who has recently relocated to a senior’s facility in Calgary. Walter, I really miss you around the A&W, but I’m trying to carry out your example of never leaving there without first touching base with at least three or four other tables of folks in friendly banter and a twinkle in the eye.

Listening. Many of you have taught me about the importance of striving to hear what others are saying, not being passive but active and engaged. And here, I must single out Cochrane authenticity author David Irvine for his special contribution to me in this regard.

The beauty of serendipity. Ah yes, seizing the moment for all its unexpected delights – the joys of the journey. Almost all of you are examples to me in this regard, but it’s been especially those with artistic sensitivities who have inspired me to open my eyes to what’s right in front of me at any given time. Yes, it could be seen as a form of listening – listening not only with ears, but with eyes, taste, touch and sense of smell; ultimately, it’s about listening with the heart.

So, let this be my Thanksgiving tribute to you, my coffee companions. Thank you for being God’s agents for raising me up, as I hope my presence around town and these weekly columns have raised you up.

In the spirit of Celine Tam’s artistry, then, come, sit at my table for a while and let’s continue raising each other up.


© 2014 Warren Harbeck

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