Wednesday, October 2, 2013

31 Days: October 3

I work part-time for my husband, as a piano teacher at his music store. I've taught, off and on, for 25 years. It's been a great way to make extra money as a stay-at-home mom, and now it's a great way to help my husband accomplish his dream of a successful business.

But in the last six or seven years, it's become something more. A lot of things, really; on a personal level, teaching privately has become a great source of joy. It is simple, uncomplicated, and requires complete focus - in 30-minute stints. I love music, and I love the benefits afforded me by attaining mastery of an instrument. I love helping people. Combining those things makes for deep fulfillment as a private instructor.

I've lived in Virginia now longer than I have lived anywhere else since I was 18 years old. The roots are deepening, and I see it most profoundly in kids like Amanda and Amie, Leslie and Macy and Whitley. Some of these kids have been taking piano with me long enough to see pretty radical changes - not only in their playing, but also in their lives, as little girls become young women.

It's an amazing privilege, really. I loved watching my kids grow up - still enjoy Daniel and David - and this is just icing on the cake. It's a unique perspective, a window into a kid's life that is personal and intimate and unlike any other relationship. I get to see - and hear - some incredible things.

I love teaching piano. 

So here's what I noticed today: I have two Wednesday lessons, sisters, back to back. They are precious and delightful and imaginative and very good little musicians, with parents who encourage their creativity and seem to set healthy boundaries and expectations. One girl has taken lessons off and on for about three years; the younger sister just started recently. She's inspired by her older sister, for sure, with a passion for learning her beginner-level lessons that may be slightly fueled by a competitive desire (if it's there, it's extremely healthy - the best kind of inspiring competition!) Today, she was first into the room, and we opened her lesson book to see what she had worked on. 

Her first two songs were well-played, with confidence, correct notes and right rhythms. She enjoys playing, and it shows; I checked off the top of each page to show that it was complete, and she beamed and prepared for the next song. 

We switched to a performance book, with another song at a slightly more challenging level. I opened the book and her eyes flew open. Excitedly, she placed her hands in position on the keys.

"I'm really good at this one!" she exclaimed. 

And she was.

I thought about this as we continued her lesson, and then later, as I drove to meet with my small group. I thought about this little girl, a beginning piano student, playing simple repetitive, five note songs. Her bold declaration stuck with me.

"I'm really good at this."

I walked into the church to meet with a large group of women - ladies I have come to know and care for. Women who are all over the map in terms of seasons and circumstances of life. Women who have their fair share of challenges, for sure, but with no small amount of joy and things for which they are grateful. 

Women who are, by all accounts, successful in many areas. Work, home, parenting, ministry, friendship, community volunteers.

"I'm really good at this."

At the age of seven, it's cute to see the reckless, uninhibited proclamation of accomplishment bubble up. It's confidence, joy, passion. It reflects safety and surety. There is no guile, no ego, not one bit of self-promotion in that simple statement, when you are seven and you have worked hard on your piano piece and you feel good about what you've done.

"I'm really good at this."

I walked into a room of women tonight and wondered what happened to the seven-year old in each of us. It's been a long time - like forever - since I sat with someone and saw that same sort of confidence and comfort, or at least heard it said out loud. We shy away from such bold, reckless statements now that we're grown up, don't we? We don't want somebody to get the wrong idea...

What I saw in my student today was something so pure that it took my breath away. She worked hard at something, she accomplished her goal, and it gave her great pleasure to declare it to her teacher.

When's the last time you told somebody, "I'm really good at this!" and enjoyed saying so?

You'd make my day if you told me, here.

I'm really good at making chicken and rice.


annie said...

I'm really good at noticing!

What a great post, Beth! And it kind of makes me think of my own need to be "really good" at extending myself grace! Thank you! What lovely insight you have!

Donia said...

I'm really good teaching science--at infecting young minds with my own fascination with the laws that govern and describe the physical world!

Donia said...

*good at* finger typing in bed, past my bedtime :)

Lindsay Durrenberger said...

fancy teaching piano remotely?

also, i'm really good at encouraging others, i think.

Lori said...

Well, wow! That was an eye opener. I love this. I love that you love to teach and the exuberance of a seven year old.
Sadly I don't remember when I said that. Nope I take that back... in a conversation about death, working with the dying and bereaved.. I said it's something I'm good at... and that time I added unfortunately.
Oh me.... something else to notice.
thank you once again for your beautiful words.

Jayne said...

I adore your insight my friend. Indeed, what happens to that seven year old inside us all? Are we told it's not OK to be proud of our accomplishments along the way and so we stop feeling as if we are worthy of those proclamations?

I'm good at

Funny... I sat here for the longest time with the cursor staring at me trying to complete that sentence, and it simply wouldn't come. I'd think I was ready to type something, and my head would say, "I'm not really that good at that." Wow. Lots of food for thought here.