What a debacle! The gorgeous piano would still play beautifully, but the raw edge of bare wood on the front corner stuck out, as they say, like a sore thumb. How could I face the owners of this fine instrument? Surely they would be furious! Perhaps I could shove the trailer, piano and all, over the side of the hill and claim accidental damage? The thoughts running through my head were all akin, with a foundation in despondency and a framework of desperation. As the gloom began to take control, I suddenly remembered that I had been in similar situations before and lived to tell about it, so I brushed away the swirling “what ifs”, squared my jaw, and told the rest of the crew to continue unloading the grand piano and we headed into the huge mansion to face the music.
I suppose that you might want me to back up a little and give a few details, but the prelude to this little drama has almost no bearing on the outcome. The doctor had engaged our services to move his grand piano. We had arrived at his home at the agreed upon time and, removing the pedals and legs, stood it upright on a dolly and loaded it in my trailer. I had supervised the padding of the glossy black instrument, but had neglected to cover one very small corner, a spot of about three inches by one inch. My memory has made it much larger, but it was a relatively tiny percentage of the entire piano. No matter. It rubbed on the side of the trailer the whole distance. Upon arriving at the destination, some twenty miles away, we swept away the pads, to find the damage staring back at our dismayed faces.
Now, where were we? Oh, yes. Facing the music. Well, as it turns out, the joke was on me. There was no music to face. Oh, there was consternation. There was even a little frown on the good doctor’s face as I pointed out the damage, assuring him that we would have a furniture refinisher out as quickly as we could to make amends. As I waited for the storm clouds to gather and the thunder to crash, he brightened and noticing my consternation, threw an arm over my shoulder. “Don’t worry about it, Paul. It still makes as beautiful a tone as it ever did, doesn’t it?” I relaxed, but still felt the need to apologize again. “I’m really sorry, but we’ll make it right, Doc.” He waved away my apology with his hands. “I already know that. Nobody is hurt and nothing is broken. How much do I owe you?”
As I drove home, mostly in silence in spite of the truck full of strong men, I couldn’t help but remember another delivery to a house just a mile or two away from that huge mansion, a couple of years before.
|“The Unforgiving Servant” (Domenico Fetti)|
I had agreed to help out some folks who were in financial straits, but who needed to move and had no way to deal with their old piano. The old upright instrument had seen better times, appearing to be in it’s final days of usefulness. Besides the functional issues, it had scrapes across the front where the bench had been tipped over against it, the legs were almost completely devoid of finish and the veneer was peeling away at a couple of spots. Nevertheless, we loaded it into the trailer and padding the contact points, strapped it to the side as we always do. Just as I got to the first intersection, at which I made a turn, I felt something shift in the trailer, so I stopped and went back to investigate. The strap had slipped and allowed the piano to crash into the back door of the trailer. There was a little damage to the piano, with a couple of fresh scrapes in the finish on that end. I was unhappy, but not really disturbed, since the piano was already such a wreck. Upon arrival at the house though, the owner of the piano didn’t see it in quite the same way. As I apologized for the slight damage, which I had to point out to him, he raised his voice, exclaiming vigorously about my careless treatment of his property. I was dumbfounded. After agreeing to touch up the damage, I left without any pay, as I had arranged beforehand. The slightly damaged piano had inflicted significantly more damage to my trailer, bending the door where it had impacted it. Worse, I was angry and bitter about the owner’s reaction to the minor incident. When the subsequent event described above occurred, it still rankled.
So, I drove home and thought about the difference in the two men. In the place where I expected grace and forgiveness, there had been only anger. Then, in the place where I anticipated nothing but fury, I experienced grace and peace. I have thought about that on several occasions since. I think I am beginning to understand the disparate reactions.
We all are presented with different paths to walk throughout our lives. One of these men was wealthy, lacking nothing he wished, the other, impoverished and wanting. That in itself couldn’t explain the reactions. One would certainly expect a wealthy man to place more value in the things, while you would think that the poor man would place value in people. Instead, the values were reversed. The well-to-do man saw my distress and had compassion, understanding the higher value of a human when compared to a piano. The needy man, however, saw only the tiny marks on his property, dismissing any concern on my part and demanding justice. I have come to the conclusion that it is not his lack of physical goods that makes him truly poor, but his poverty of spirit. By the same token, the doctor is wealthy, not because of his financial prowess, but because he places such value on his fellow man.
I thought of both men again this evening, as I contemplated the final sale of our piano moving equipment, including our trailer, today. I do not expect to move pianos again. It seems to me that it was a great gift to be given the opportunity to learn this lesson before the end of my piano moving days.
I’m sure more lessons will come from other endeavors. I hope I will be a good student.
I’d certainly rather be a rich man anyway…in spirit, that is.
“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012. All Rights Reserved.