Some gifts we can see

Just over eight months ago, right at the beginning of th ecalendar year, I was called in to the university during the break between semesters to teach a postgraduate / staff development session. It was the first week of January. Out of that session came a very inspired lady and I gave her a violin. (you can read that story here)

Some time later a friend of mine said – what happened to her? Did that story continue? – to which I honestly said, I don’t know, but maybe I’ll ask her one day.

One day came –

in the form of an unexpected email. I found the email a little surprising, definitely genuine, and also not unlike the experience of many people and definitely many students. Here’s part of our conversation and I’ll let you watch it unfold…

That lovely lady said:

I took a couple of lessons with a teacher and then I decided to continue going on my own at home but big surprise, I unfortunately have not done as much as I had intended!  Am I OK to keep the violin for the time being, or do you want it back for the new academic year?  If you’d like it back, I can bring it in on Tuesday, if that is convenient?

I replied with:

You are certainly welcome to keep it- that is for you!!!

…and I went on to tell her that I run a teaching module this semester so if she wanted to work with a student, there was a possibility of connecting her that way or with the people in my community orchestra… and I wished her well.

She wrote back immediately, and here’s where the uncertainty (and the bit that really surprised me) came in:

That is so very kind of you! I am not certain what you mean, about it being for me – I am still assuming it to be a loan for the time being?

At this point I reminded her why I gave her the violin. I said to her-

It is a present.

You were extraordinary and I had an instrument and was very happy to give it to you- forever. Happy unbirthday! 😉
You can have it to learn on, to make noise on, to remember that feeling that you said – fuck it, I can do it too.
(she really did say that, I wasn’t just being gratuitous with language. I went on:)
…You inspired me, the least I could do was inspire you back with a violin – and it doesn’t really matter if you use it as a long term instrument or as a symbol to keep hold of remembering that breath of fresh air moment.
She wrote back a final time to thank me for her unbirthday present and say it was an ‘outrageous kindness’. Nobody had ever called me outrageously kind before, and I thought that was absolutely something I would like to be outrageous with – and it made me smile. That was a gift she gave to me and never saw, but that smile spread across my face and stayed there all day. Kindness does that sometimes.

This morning,

recalling the story, I sat – early, as I do – listening to the one solitary bird singing I thought of learning as well. Have a listen to the bird while you read the rest… (I’d love to know what kind of bird it is if anyone knows)

It made me think of learning – that’s a gift you don’t see. There are so many gifts we don’t see, but seldom does someoone write back to tell you about it, so you never really know how or if it’s received. -and there are the gifts people don’t know they give. -I think that’s where it made me think of learning.

How often do people ask – Is it for me? Can I do this? What if I don’t come up to the mark? -Whose mark is it anyway and why would you want to come up to someone else’s mark – make your own, I say. The point is that people do think those things, and we doubt, and expect expectations that are either of or for others, and fall short of those. How amazing is it to be given a gift with no ‘strings’ attached? Gifts are like that bird’s song – it’s one of those things that is all around us, but we probably don’t even notice it’s there.
Whatever gift you find today, happy un-birthday to you, -and to me-
Here’s to giving gifts, seen or unseen, and letting people do with them what they will and what they can.

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