Being the White Rat:
a story about vocation
Former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold tells
this story from his childhood.
When he was about six
years old, his school presented a musical production
based on the tale of the Pied
Piper. Like all of the younger children, he was to
be part of the rat chorus, which had a rather elaborate
dance to perform as they followed the piper.
“I was so proficient at the rat
dance,” he says, “that
I was cast as the lead rat. As the lead rat, I wore
a white rat costume.”
All went well until the
dress rehearsal, when he panicked, realizing that as
the White Rat, he would be the focus
of everyone’s attention. He simply couldn’t
do it, so a bolder classmate agreed to take the role.
The new White Rat was
a much larger child, who squeezed himself into the
white rat costume,
while little Frank
put on his friend’s too-large costume as one
of the plain gray rats in the chorus.
“As I twisted and flailed in the
intricacies of the rat dance,” he recalls, “I
decided: I will never again say no out of fear.”
says that when he became presiding bishop, he stood
for the first time on the patio of his apartment
atop the Episcopal Church Center and remembered that
never to fear saying yes to a call to leadership,
amazed at where it had brought him.
Vocation (The Song of the White Rat)--for The Most
Rev. Frank T. Griswold
It's a cozy life in the chorus line--
just a plain gray rat like all the rest,
no solo turns, no spotlight's shine,
no putting a talent to the test.
If you shuffle your feet and sway in place,
you can look like dancing (just about),
and you'll swell the ranks and fill the space--
and if you should stumble, who'd find out?
But center stage, where the dance commences,
the White Rat's got no place to hide;
he's dancing there without defenses--
he's dancing out the dance inside.
Oh, the White Rat's life is a fearful calling;
you make it up as you go along;
the choreography's appalling--
a thousand ways to dance it wrong--
and out in front there's risk of falling,
but out in front's where you belong.
You've heard the song.
You are the song.
Mary W. Cox
© Mary W. Cox 2005