The wonder in her eyes lit up the room. The young lady, all of eight years old, received a new guitar for Christmas, so this week, it was off to the music store for an instruction book. Her dad asked the location of the books with little interest in his voice and demeanor. For him, this was just another visit to another store; money would change hands and he would be able to get back to his own diversions. As I led the way to the rack of books though, the little lady’s glance swept over the column of relatively homogeneous books to rest on the bright pink volume about halfway up.
“Wow, look! A girl’s guitar book! I want this one!” We opened the book and talked about the different features and particulars of interest only to adults and I suggested the possibility of other options, including DVDs and some more traditional books, but she was transfixed by the idea of a book for her! This book was for girls! And, it was going to teach her how to play the guitar! In the end, her enthusiasm convinced her parents more than I ever could have, silver-tongued salesperson though I may be (or not).
The choice made, she continued through the store, exclaiming about guitars hanging on the walls and the sets of drums at just the right height to catch her eye (and imagination). My jaded attitude, effected by too many complaints and too few really excited musicians, faded into a dim memory in just moments. As I said, she lit up the room. When she had completed her exploration of the store, she headed for the counter with a question for her mother. “Mama, should I pay for the book myself?”, was her query, asked in a voice that told anyone listening that she would be happy to do it. Instead, her mom paid for the book and the little family went on their way, leaving a little sunshine behind.
In my mind, I stepped back 24 hours to the same basic situation. The little family pulled into the parking lot, but the teenage son made it into the front door before his dad, carrying a violin. “Before my dad gets in here, I wanted you to know, I don’t want to buy anything expensive. I tell him one time that I might like to play a fiddle and he buys one for me for Christmas!” The exasperation in his voice was unmistakable. Before he could say any more, his dad and little brother stepped through the front door. “He needs a book and some help,” came the gruff voice of the gift-giver.
For the next fifteen minutes, I gave some instructions on bow care and tuning, along with actually tuning the violin, the young man looking at me and rolling his eyes every time Dad wasn’t looking. I suggested a DVD which was less expensive than the book he looked at first, so he snatched it from my hand, tossing it on the counter. “You paying for this?” he demanded of his father, only to be reminded that he had his own Christmas money. Sullenly, he started to fork over the cash and his father headed out the door with a ringing cell phone. The door wasn’t completely closed when the young man started again. “How do you like that? He buys me this stupid thing and then makes me pay to learn to play it!” The griping continued for a few more moments until Dad came back in wondering what was taking so long. Out went this family, sucking a good bit of the oxygen from the room with them. Some of the grumpiness I thought I had lost over my week of a working vacation washed back over me.
I’m not sure if the little girl will make it to Nashville in her lifetime, but I’m confident that her guitar is going to make some music. She’s going to enjoy it, as least as long as her interest stays active. And that’s what I love about what I do! The poor violin, on the other hand, is sure to languish in the case, being dragged out only when the young man is forced to it, either by guilt or by threat of punishment. I didn’t even enjoy the sound of the cash register as the sale was rung up for this one.
There’s probably a moral to the story, but for me, it’s just a reminder that we’re all different. We don’t fit the same mold and it doesn’t make any sense to try and make everybody adapt to it. Not everybody who walks through my door is excited about making music, in much the same way that I don’t want to learn counted cross-stitch, just because I venture into Hobby Lobby occasionally.
Communication is a great gift, too often forgotten in the rush to get on with life. And, it involves both talking and listening. I hope that I will one day discover which one to do at the right time. For now, just to clarify…If you buy me that cross-stitch kit I once said was “interesting”, I’m not paying for any instructions or thread myself!
“Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.”
(Colossians 3:21 KJV)