Many years ago, when things seemed more certain, or at least more clear cut, I was invited to join a team of basketball players who would double as missionaries during a trip to Zambia. We were good enough at basketball to play exhibition games around the country against the Zambian National Team and we came from far away enough that people were intrigued with what we had to say about God. My father always said, with regard to building materials, that if you were from more than 30 miles away from the problem, you were the expert. We stayed overseas around a month and the trip was paid for by donations to the then Baptist Student Union at the University of Tennessee.
One of the requirements after being selected for the team was to provide the BSU with a list of friends and family who might be willing to donate to the trip. My family came through. My friends came through. My church at the time came through. There was very little out of pocket expense for me and I will always be grateful for those who made it possible. When word spread around my relatively small church that I was going to Africa and that I was raising money, a lady I barely knew, but that had watched me grow up, made an offer to my mother. Though she had no extra money, she wanted to offer me piano lessons at no cost, for as long as I would like.
At first, being busy with my studies, and being more busy with things other than my studies, I wanted to decline. My mother insisted I take lessons, not because she wanted me to play piano, but because her friend had offered to give me the lessons. So off I went to the church where I had grown up. Sitting in the sanctuary where I was baptized, where I first questioned what it was that God wanted from me, where, even as Southern Baptist as the lessons were, I began learning about the Divine. I knew very little about the piano and I knew even less about this woman that was kind enough to teach me some new skill.
This story would be awesome if it ended with a great friendship that was formed. Greater even still if I could say that every time I play some great work from some great composer that I think of my teacher from so many years ago. The truth is, without my mother here, I can seldom remember the lady’s name and I cannot play piano. I do not know what she did for the church. I do not know what she did for a living. I do not know how her and my mother met and I do not know what her particular beliefs were on any small or great matter that everyone concerns themselves with today.
What I do remember is her smile. I remember her patience. I remember her calm and gentle spirit. And I remember her gift to me. Lessons that lasted for however long and were given for however many weeks or months. Sometimes what we give may not seem like so very much to others and it might not even meet the need of the request. It may also be of note that it was good for her to be able to teach me, in some small way. That we may have been a blessing to each other. As for the trip to the nation of Zambia, the team was 4-0, we saw some really cool things, great times, met some good people, and we got home safe. Thanks to all the donors and “The Piano Woman”. Happy Saturday.