A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, January 5, 2014
Of Piano Playing and Being Kind
I received a call last night. A pianist was unable to show up for two worship services this morning. I was asked whether I would be able to substitute at the last minute. Of course! I said. I’ve been at both of these retirement homes in Chicago a number of times, just not under these last-minute-circumstances.
Sometimes I preach and lead worship, more recently I’ve also played the piano, and a few times I’ve played both roles. So when I walked into the chapel at the first home, I knew all of the dear seniors present. I spoke to a few on my way to the piano. Because of snow and ice on the roads (as well as on my car), I came just two or three minutes before the service was to start. I played through two hymns as a prelude. After the service, I played a number of hymns as a postlude. Familiar hymns. Since I’ve been preaching, leading worship and playing for services at retirement homes over the past number of years, I know which hymns are more likely to elicit sighs and nods of recognition, and even seniors singing the words along with my playing. Thus it was with my postlude. One dear senior (mid-eighties? late eighties?) still has a very nice-sounding voice, and a marvelous memory for the words of many, many hymns. As I played, I smiled as I listened to one, two, then three seniors singing the words of the hymns.
After almost ten minutes of playing the postlude, I rose from the piano bench to get ready to leave. I noticed that fully half of the seniors gathered there for the service had remained. They were listening to me, playing the piano. I stopped for a moment, realizing why they were still there. It was then that I heard the thanks. Sincere thank yous and gratitude coming from several of these dear seniors.
I quickly slogged several miles through the snow to the second retirement home, where this worship service was repeated. Again, the piano playing. The hymn singing was not quite as strong, but equally heartfelt. And after the worship, I again played a number of hymns for the postlude.
I wonder if this piano playing was the most important thing I’ve done all week, in God’s eyes? And afterwards, to have several of these dear seniors say ‘thank you’ with such sincerity and gratitude? I know many in this youth-oriented (even youth-worshipping) culture do not put much stock in their seniors. Many thoughtless or uncaring people today consider them to be not-as-important. Even forgettable. The descriptive word to reference them is no longer ‘elders’ but ‘seniors.’ This telling change in vocabulary begins to show the shift in thinking.
Thank God that I was available and able to play the piano at a moment’s notice. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had this revelation. What a way for me to be kind and tenderhearted, as Paul reminded the believers in Ephesus. Please, God, show me how to be kind and tenderhearted tomorrow, too.