Surrounded By Hearts and World Kindness Day
Kindness comes in many forms and often from unexpected places. I think that is what makes genuine gestures of kindness, the kind you don’t expect, so very special. A number of years ago, I was on the receiving end of the most generous act of kindness I can remember.
As you know, I am a piano teacher in addition to being a performing musician. The one-on-one time in piano lessons is an opportunity to form a significant relationship which can affect a child’s life in important ways. The discipline and creativity it takes to learn a musical instrument sets the groundwork for the type of problem-solving skills which are necessary for success later in life.
I’ve had several students who began taking lessons with me when they were in Kindergarten or First Grade. A number of those students continue taking piano until they graduate high school and move on to college. It is amazing to be able to watch each child grow, physically, emotionally, musically, intellectually, socially.
A studio tradition has been a twice a year “Kid’s Only Piano Day” where students come together in small groups and perform for each other. No parents are allowed so that the kids feel less pressure to be perfect. The groups are small so that each participant has an opportunity to talk about the pieces performed.
One ground rule is that we show respect for each other and be willing to join the conversation in a constructive way. Each person not only performs, but also answers questions about the pieces or offers suggestions to other performers on how to make the music more expressive or technically proficient. In case you are wondering, yes, even young children in Kindergarten and First Grade can participate in this type of discussion.
Although it is not the focus of our “Kid’s Only Piano Day”, compassion and empathy are skills which come in to play. Even when a child’s performance is not quite “performance ready”, it is customary to always start discussion with the successes. At first it might be hard to do, but I always ask students to offer up 3 things which were successful or positive before thinking about what needs improvement.
But Piano Day itself is not what made me think of one unexpected act of kindness that touched my heart. It just helps to explain the type of relationship which develops between students and myself over many years.
Surrounded By Hearts:
A few years ago, my 19 year old cat Joshua died. I had gotten Joshua just when he was a little kitten during my senior year in college. He was my buddy and close friend who was by my side as I moved from state to state to attend different graduate schools and finally as I ended up in Northern Virginia. We were very close. We had the type of relationship where I only had to click nail clippers a few times and he would jump up on my lap to have his nails trimmed.
When Joshua approached the end of his life, his health had not been good for quite some time. I was devastated when he finally died on a Friday morning with the help of a visiting veterinarian. I cried and cried. On Monday, I tried to teach my normal lesson schedule but I couldn’t stop tearing up and one of my younger students turned and saw me. I ended up canceling lessons for the remainder of the week after that.
Later that week, there was a knock at my front door. I was greeted by a student holding a small bouquet of flowers she had picked and a card she had drawn. In the center of the card was a drawing of me and all around the picture were hearts of many sizes and colors. Her message was clear: You are surrounded by love!
The little girl’s mother stayed back on the sidewalk as she allowed her daughter to independently deliver her message of kindness and compassion. That young piano student taught me that making a lasting impression can truly be as simple as drawing hearts and picking flowers.
Opportunities for kindness are all around us. Just like learning the skills to play the piano, being kind to one another is a skill which should be nurtured and practiced on a regular basis.
The little girl is no longer my piano student as she decided that she liked sports much more. I suspect that she and her mother may not even remember her visit to my front door. But I do. Her hearts touched me deeply and stay with me even now years later.
So on World Kindness Day on November 13, 2013, do something unexpected and reach out to someone with a random act of kindness. You may have no idea how much your small gesture can make a lasting difference in someone's life.