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Lessons From A 95-Year-Old

Lessons From A 95-Year-Old

Hello and good day!

My kids have played in a couple of piano recitals lately. Before one of the recitals, the music teacher said something very profound. She said it in such an off handed way that I don't think people realized what a good point it was. I'm not sure she even realized the implications of what she said.

That isn't a slight against her by the way.

It took me 3 days myself to fully work out how deep her little comment runs. She said that the purpose of a recital is for the children to get used to performing. It isn't for the kids to show off. It isn't for all the parents to reaffirm their decision to pay the teacher for her services.

It is so the children can get used to performing. Why is that important?

After all, most of these children aren't going to be professional musicians. So why in the world should they get used to performing? The teacher didn't elaborate, and I was left with her statement bouncing around in my head.

Finally, it hit me. I understood what she was trying to say.

Music is meant to be shared with others. The whole reason a person learns to play an instrument is to entertain. Professional musicians do this on a large scale.

But anybody who knows a few songs on the piano, or the guitar, can put on a small, impromptu show for friends and family anytime. When my kids play for their grandparents, it makes the grandparents very happy.

The more I thought about this, the more it became clear to me that this extends far beyond music. Most of the skills that one develops over the course of a lifetime are meant to be deployed in the service of others.

You aren't supposed to keep your abilities hidden.

Can you imagine a scenario in which it makes sense to go through all the rigamarole of learning how to make great chocolate, just so you can eat it alone?

Would it have made sense for us to build a cacao processing facility out in the jungle of northern Peru if we weren't going to make something that many people could enjoy? Even if you don't build a business around it, at some point you will want to share your creations with other people so that you can see their face light up.

That's kind of the whole point, isn't it?

My mom's significant other builds hot rods. Not long ago, he finished work on a killer hot rod. He enjoys the work in and of itself. But one of the best parts of building a hot rod is driving it around and showing it off.

You go to car shows.

When you park, a crowd gathers and admires the car. They start asking questions and you get to share with them all the little details that make the car special. Bringing joy to others is a big part of the end game in most endeavors. Not to share is almost an abomination against the nature of things.

Here is another example that isn't even a skill. What if you have a nice thought about a loved one? For example, you think somebody looks pretty or handsome. Or they did or said something that you liked.

You have this thought that ought to be shared and yet you keep it to yourself. Doesn't that squander the value of the thought? Wouldn't the thought be worth much more if you spoke it out loud to the person you care for?

The idea from the music teacher coincided very nicely with letters I have been reading recently.

The letters were written by my great Aunt Opal. I am coming to believe that my great Aunt Opal was one of the wisest and best people who ever lived. She lived to be 97.

Up until the very end, she was sharp mentally and writing letters to her loved ones.She took a bad fall and broke her hip and ended up in the hospital, where she passed. If it wasn't for that, she would have lived even longer.

Anyhow, in these letters she wrote to me when she was 95 years old, she mentions specifically that she could still do two things very well. She could bake cookies and write letters.

She could no longer walk the hundred-foot driveway out to her mailbox to get her own mail. She couldn't do her own laundry because the washing machine was down in the basement, and she couldn't make it down the stairs. Her family and neighbors came over and helped her with what she was unable to do for herself.

But as for writing letters and baking cookies, she never gave up on those activities. Sometimes her letters to me were nothing more than a catalogue of who she made cookies for and who she wrote letters to. At age 95 she still had a whole mess of people she was keeping up with.

It is very inspirational. I think she lived the best life of anybody I've ever known. And she was beloved.

There was a reason her neighbors never stopped taking care of her. She had a neighbor boy who started mowing her lawn when he was twelve and kept doing it for the next twenty years, for free. On his days off from work, he came over and did her yard work because he loved and cherished her so much.

The whole secret was that she shined her light on the world. She always did what she could. It didn't have to be anything grandiose. She just did what she could.

I can't help but share one more story about this woman. She was my dad's aunt. My dad was my brother's stepfather. My brother and I have the same mother and different fathers.

Aunt Opal was not Brian's biological aunt. Yet, when Brian joined the army at age 18, she sent him a letter and a box of cookies every two weeks for 3 years.

Now get this.

Brian's roommate in the army was so blown away by this whole thing, that he wrote a letter to Aunt Opal thanking her for the cookies. In response, Aunt Opal started sending a letter and cookies to Brian's roommate every two weeks as well.

Letters and cookies

That is why recitals are important. Kids need to learn to share their skills with the world. Us adults need to keep up with our own types of recitals too.

Whatever we can do to bring joy to people's lives, we should do it, and keep doing it. We shouldn't keep it bottled up.

Thank you so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!