It started with a duet gone wrong. My sister and I sat side by side on the squeaky piano bench, prepared to dazzle the audience at our semi-annual piano recital. Unfortunately we had not been blessed with the dazzle gene. The "wow factor", super performer gene had skipped over us, and the trembling hands, blank mind, "please don't make me do this" gene had settled in its place.
Duets in and of themselves are very difficult, but when you throw trembling hands, blank minds and utter terror into the mix, they can be nearly impossible to execute without moments of failure. Now those blessed with the performance gene can handle a few misplaced clanks ringing forth from their perfectly practiced piece without a hint of perspiration, but for the poor scaredy gene sap, a mistake of any kind equals bitter humiliation, the show up to school in your underwear kind of humiliation, of the "I will never play piano in public again" variety.
And thus began the demise of my career as a concert pianist. My sister and I destroyed our duet with jarring clunks and nervous laughter, then returned to our seats with heads hung low, vowing never to play in public again. Sadly I have kept that promise all of these years, rarely even playing for my own kinfolk.
Because of this I am quite enamored with anyone who will put their talents (perceived or real) on display for all to see. Certainly those with the performance gene are exciting to watch, but I think I get more of a thrill watching the scaredy people, like me, overcome and conquer (I so want to be more of an overcome and conquer kind of girl). I watch with stilled breath, praying that they get through their numbers without error, their wide-eyed looks of trepidation moving me literally to tears (my kids laugh at me because I tear up at any and all "display of talent" events).
Which is exactly what happened to me at Paige's recent show choir concert. It was a middle school extravaganza with young teens singing and dancing (SOLO!) to their hearts content. Of course, as always, I found myself drawn to those who were obviously socially awkward, who looked like they wanted to die, and my heart longed to give them a big squeeze in praise and thanksgiving of their brave efforts.
My heart hurt when I imagined that some of these kids would go home that night feeling dejected and down trodden, that they would likely stew for days, reliving every voice crack, flat note, and forgotten lyric over and over and over again. This thought led my dizzying mind to the sorrows of the plight of man, how we are all so fragile and easily injured by the cruelty of others (perceived or real). And I longed to find every man, woman and child in pain, give them a big squeeze and tell them to hang in there because everything would be alright.
I have always been sensitive to the pains of others, but as I see this earth life becoming increasingly difficult for people, I sometimes feel that my heart could break. Just yesterday as I witnessed a scuffle between the crossing guard and an elderly gentleman who had mistakenly driven over the crosswalk, I felt a pang in my chest for both of them. The look of distress and embarrassment on the man's face told that his day had probably been ruined and the evident anger that plagued the crossing guard dampened her spirit as well.
This experience made me think of how much power we each possess for good or for evil. We can literally make or break a person depending on how we behave. What a difference it would make if we each went through our days seeking to uplift and strengthen. A simple, "I think you're great" could change a person’s outlook and help to put a spring in their once heavy steps.
And with judgment, criticism, and general feelings of ill will obliterated from the earth, just think of how authentic and amazing we could become.
Heck, it might even be enough to make me play piano again.
And you know you all want to hear that.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Posted by Jeanette at 10:26 AM