It may be one of those purchases that I look back on for some time, wondering why I made it. I didn’t want the instrument. I don’t need it, either. The 20-year old young man came in this afternoon in the middle of one of our mini-rushes. Well, the Lovely Lady had to make a trip to the Big City to take care of some business for me and I was alone. Naturally, this is the actuator for the undetectable signal that goes out through the airwaves to every one of our customers who has been putting off their visit to the music store. Somehow, they are all drawn at the same time through the front door, simply because I’m working by myself and it is suddenly imperative that they make a purchase! I should be used to it by now, but the frustration level rises every time it happens.
I waited on the customers who were in front of the young man and finally asked him how I could help. In a lowered voice and glancing around to see if others were listening, he inquired as to whether I purchased guitars. My reply being affirmative, he said that he didn’t have the instrument, but could describe it. As I sat at my computer trying to identify and evaluate the guitar, he showed me, one by one, three pictures of the guitar which his wife sent him on his cell phone. The process of determining the price took up a longer period of time than I expected, during which he received a call from the young lady on the phone. His voice betrayed the agitation he felt as he spoke to her. I don’t try to eavesdrop on customers when they have private conversations, but couldn’t avoid hearing some key phrases from the tense interplay. “No, we’re not selling your rings!” “If I can get enough from this, we’ll be okay.” “This guitar isn’t important to me. We can get another one later.”
I found the price for the guitar and gave him a “ball park figure”, promising a firm offer if he returned to the store with it. I don’t want this instrument, mostly because it’s not quite the usual fare we offer. The “heavy metal” artwork and design of the instrument is a little out of the ordinary for us, not that we can’t sell it, but just because, even after all these years in the business, I’m not sure of the message which these images and the wantonness and licentiousness of the genre itself present to our young people. And no, this is not some “old person” mindset which has developed as I matured past the point of enjoying good music. I’ve always been more than a little uncomfortable with the lifestyles and the “unholy” utterances of these groups, all the way from “Black Sabbath”, “KISS”, and “Queen”, to “Guns & Roses” and “Megadeth”. It’s not something I want to promote, so while I haven’t banned this style of instrument from my shop, I haven’t gone looking for them either. I made the offer, knowing that the reason for the proposal was not the potential for profit to be made, but the necessity for this young couple to be able to keep ahead of the bill collectors. The young man left, promising to return tomorrow. He was back in twenty minutes.
Does it seem like I keep writing about this subject? Does it make you uncomfortable? I ask myself the question constantly, “Why can I not live like most of my friends, insulated from this distress?” I agonize about which people need my help and even whether what I do for them really helps, or merely postpones the inevitable. I put those thoughts into what I write here for two purposes: One; once in awhile I personally need to “talk it out”, to get these jumbled questions sorted out and this is a forum in which I can do that. Two; I think that many folks have no idea of what goes on in the “other world”, the place where rents are due, babies need medicine, and automobiles need gas, but without any source of revenue or with substandard resources available. Most of you don’t worry about whether your paycheck will get you through the week or month. You’re not wasteful, but you don’t struggle to survive. Right next door, across the street, or across town, people just like us wrestle with this every day, with no end in sight for them.
Business is good. We have more customers than we had last year and they’re still buying our products. But constantly, the needy walk through the doors right alongside the comfortable. Daily, I’m reminded that we were put here for this. We love being able to provide the merchandise which allows folks to have music in their lives and it’s a joy when they develop a lifelong love for the amazing endowment that music is for our whole existence. But just as importantly, the folks who are not experiencing that joy, who feel the stress and disappointment that life can quickly weigh us down with, these folks have needs that we can meet also. I didn’t know that I was signing up for this when I started in this business, but as it happens, it’s not so much a burden as it is a fringe benefit.
Even if it is just for today, we get to help alleviate a small portion of the disappointment and a bit of the stress for these folks. If you don’t already, I hope someday you get to experience the same elation that I felt as I handed the young man his cash today.
Dealing with that guitar? I’m not looking forward to it with great anticipation, but that’s a problem for another day.
“The poor lack much, but the greedy more.”
“He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for what he has done.”