When I lived in Pakistan, I often had to switch schools midyear because of Sabbath observance problems. One such school I attended was Miss McMullen’s high school in Lahore.
As many of you know, Pakistan was once part of India and was ruled by the British until August 14, 1947. After the partition, many British citizens chose to stay on rather than return to England. Miss McMullen was one of these people. She apparently was a Christian and ran a Christian school until her retirement. I attended there for part of my sixth grade year.
For the school song Miss McMullen had chosen the hymn “All Things Bright and Beautiful.” When I first heard the song, sung by more than 400 Muslim classmates, I could barely contain my laughter. Over the decades the song’s original tune had been lost. What remained was a horrible tuneless version of the original.
After a few months of hearing my friends butcher the song, I finally confided to a few close friends that the song they sang every morning after the national anthem wasn’t meant to be sung the way they did.
“Sing the real tune for us!” they demanded. I complied and sang “All Things Bright and Beautiful” the way it was meant to be sung. After I finished, my friends were mad at me for not telling them sooner. They stopped “singing” along when the entire school sang the song.
Despite my plea to keep it a secret, word got out to one of my teachers, who had noticed that the boys in my class no longer joined in to sing the off-tune rendition of “All Things Bright and Beautiful.” She did some questioning and figured out the real reason behind the boys’ refusal to participate. Then she had me sing for her after class.
A couple of days later, after the national anthem, the school principal, Mr. Alexander, cleared his throat and said, “It has been brought to my attention by one of the teachers that we have a young man who knows how to sing our school song better. Sohail [my middle name], will you please step forward and sing the school song for us?”
I went up to the front of the assembled school. I sang the song. Afterward, during the day, many students and teachers came up to me to tell me how beautiful the tune was and how glad they were that I had had the “courage” to speak out. To my knowledge, they never sang the song the old way again.
There are so many people in the world who live their lives day in and day out not knowing that there is a better way of existence. To my knowledge, once you’ve heard the particular sound of the Adventist message, it is very hard to sing another tune. And while many of us would rather go along with the world and sing its tuneless song, it is probably better to speak out. I think when we do, we will be surprised at how many people appreciate that we did.