Head Coach: Concert of generosity

March 3, 2011 at midnight
Updated March 2, 2011 at 9:03 p.m.

By Lane Johnson

There is a small church in Yorktown that recently acquired a beautiful baby grand piano. You don't have to know much about music - and believe me, I don't - to appreciate how magnificent an instrument it is. It's physical appearance alone demands respect. When it is played, the sound inspires awe.

The people in this church knew they had something special and wanted to inaugurate their piano with a grand concert. It was decided that the member who found the piano and has been tickling ivories by ear since he was 6-years-old would be the concert pianist. He prepared a repertoire of his favorite old tunes like "Stardust," "Peg of My Heart," "Crazy" and "Marie Elena."

Of course, the word got out that they had a new piano and were planning to break it in right with a "Night of Music." Others wanted to get in on the act. The church choir wanted to sing with this grand piano. So, they were added to the program. Other piano players thought, "Why does he get to have all the fun? I wanna play!" One member contacted her mother from out of town, who has been playing piano beautifully for years in what she describes as "every church denomination there is, and then some." She agreed to play. Her husband, with his concert voice, also agreed to sing a number. Then a local restaurant owner heard what was brewing. He happens to be a musician who has played Gospel with some of the great names of Nashville and Grand Ole Opry. He called his friend, who sings professionally, and always draws a crowd.

Things almost got out of control. But, this was a baby grand piano. If it took two days, they were going to break it in right. And so they did. The result was a Saturday night gala of voices, piano and guitars. People from across the community filled the church. The music varied from old to new, secular to gospel, soft to loud. That little church vibrated for an hour and a half with music, song and laughter. I suspect that come the next rainfall, their roof may well leak. The baby grand was a hit.

But, you know what was more amazing than that room full of music and talent? Everyone did it for free. Even the professional performers present that night, who do this sort of thing for a living, came to play, not work. They asked to come. There was a chemistry of generosity that made everyone the same, sharing a single purpose, to enjoy the beauty of good music. Even the piano was free. It was a gift from a delightful individual in Houston.

I'm struck by this story because it demonstrates the contagion of generosity. One generous act triggers another, and triggers another, and another, until everyone is begging to join in, just to be a part of the energy. In the throws of generosity, cares are forgotten, at least for a moment. Worries are set aside. Prejudice is waived. Judgement is disallowed. People are engaged with one another. Creativity is unleashed with a reckless abandon. And no money exchanges hands.

It occurs to me that we may have a solution to our failing economy. As budgets are being slashed and people are becoming more and more anxious about survival, instead of battening down the hatches, hovering in fear, and hoarding what little we have left, maybe we should give some of it away. What if we answered the economic crisis with more generosity instead of less? Might it trigger a contagion? Everyone will want to get in on the act. We'll have more donors and volunteers than we know what to do with, and the wealth of generosity will drown our anxiety, prejudice, arrogance and bitterness.

It seems rather ludicrous doesn't it? Well, so did a Saturday night music gala around a baby grand piano in a small church in Yorktown. But it happened. And everything that night was given away.

Lane Johnson, M.Div., LPC, is a licensed counselor and life coach. He welcomes your comments. You can contact him by email at lane@StrategicConnectionGroup.com.



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