My friend sent me a link to a video the other day. He sent it to me because a guitar I sold to him was being used in a concert in front of more than fifty thousand people. I should tell you that I’ve sold maybe thousands of guitars in my lifetime. I remember selling very few of them in particular. The majority are a jumble of customers’ faces and instruments, cases, and accessories. The ones I recall the best are the first few I sold, now well over thirty years ago, when I was a green kid, newly initiated into the music business.
These days, I’m reminded constantly of a story another friend told some time ago. A professor at the local university, he was in his office one afternoon when a student came by. “Dr. P, do you remember when you said…” My friend stopped him in mid-sentence. “Just a minute. Was it more than ten minutes ago?” he queried. “Yes,” came the reply. The good professor continued, “Was it less than ten years ago?” Again, the answer came, “Yes.” The old man replied abruptly, “Then, I don’t remember it!” I call him old even though he is only slightly older than I am, but I understand perfectly and can identify completely. The short term memory has gone, so much so that I sometimes don’t remember customers who have purchased instruments just a couple of days ago. At the same time, I can remember names and faces, along with details of interactions that happened decades ago. All I can say is that it’s a confusing time in life, this getting older.
What’s that? Oh yes! The guitar I sold to Toby….Well, he sent me a link, thinking that I would be excited because the guitar, which had hung in my shop for a period of time some months ago, was played in a huge crusade held recently in Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. At first I was excited, watching the screen to catch glimpses of the old electric guitar, exclaiming when it appeared on the stand behind the guitarist from time to time (I couldn’t really remember what it looked like until then). Finally on one of the songs, the guitar was being played. There was even a close-up shot of it as the music progressed. I showed the video to a couple of guys who had seen the guitar in the store back when it had been for sale. But as we watched it, I realized something. I’m a whole lot more excited because Toby, a young man who I’ve known for several years and whose progress in the music field I’ve watched with more than a passing interest, was playing guitar with one of the best Christian artists performing today. That the guitar was one I had sold to him was of interest to me, but what I’m really happy about is that Toby is doing so well in his career. The guitar is made of pieces of wood, metal, and some electronic components. Toby is flesh and blood, a human being who I am pleased to call friend. I’m excited for him. He’s playing in front of thousands and with some of the top musicians in the business! That’s amazing!
It’s a tribute to his humble spirit that he didn’t send me the video and say, “I’m playing for such-and-such an artist in this huge crusade!” No, he thought that I would be interested to know that the instrument I had sold to him had been involved. Not every musician I know would be so unpretentious. I’m pleased to see that, at least as far as I can ascertain, the success has not gone to his head. I trust that it will remain so.
Even though I’ve talked about it before, will you let me talk about this principle for just a moment again? People are more important than things. The other day another musician, who is not so successful as Toby, came timorously in the front door of the music store. “I know I owe you money that you advanced me on that equipment,” he started, “but I’ve lost my job and my wife needs to go to the doctor.” Thinking that I would be angry with him, he went on to apologize for the delay several times. I assured him that it wasn’t important and that I wouldn’t have any problem with waiting for awhile. He was surprised and grateful. As he prepared to go, he mentioned that his wife’s medicine might have to wait also. I’m not always so speedy on the uptake, but before he got out the door, I happened to think that I could help with that too. When I offered, he was visibly taken aback. You see, he came anticipating that I would be like any other creditor he had ever encountered. He was expecting an angry, demanding lender who wanted to be repaid now, regardless of his circumstances. He might even have thought that the fact that he considered himself a failure would influence how I saw him and responded to him. The only explanation for why I don’t see him that way is that I have been (slowly) learning the principle. People are more important than things. I’m far from proficient in practicing the principle yet, but as more opportunities are encountered, I’m picking it up.
I’m proud that my friend Toby is excelling in his chosen profession. On the other hand, I’m looking forward to the day when I can be proud of my less fortunate friend’s progress. You see, indigence isn’t cause for disrespect or cruelty any more than success is cause for fawning or flattery. Neither affects the value our God places on them one whit, so it shouldn’t change our evaluation of them, either.
And, it’s kind of nice to get to play a part in each of their lives. I hope that you have relationships with both the successful kind as well as the needy kind in your life, too. Each serves to keep us humble. I’m guessing we could all use a little more of that. I know I can.
“Your own safety is at stake when your neighbor’s house is ablaze.”
(Horace~Ancient Roman poet~65 BC-8 BC)
“Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”