- who struggle alone in life
- who desire support, love, and understanding
- who bust their butt surviving and succeeding
- who need human contact in an inhumane world
- who deserve respect and understanding, regardless
- who expect boundaries to be observed and protected
- who wish for decency and honesty in the world
- who stand up for injustices and stand out against ignorance
- who are private
- who can be hurt
- who can be angry as hell
- who are sad
- and most importantly, who need to know that somebody CARES.
On Monday, February 11, 2008, I just couldn't envision sitting with children (music students), the majority of whom would not have been astonishingly prepared for their lessons. So I indulged myself and cancelled my afternoon students to be able to spend a few precious hours to myself, the first opportunity to be alone since Joshua had died (my 19-year old cat.)
It was difficult to call each family to announce "no lessons today" - but for those who know me well inquired as to if I were feeling well. Only one mother asked in such a way that I "spilled the beans" to her and told her about my 19-year old cat who had just passed away.
But something very touching happened. Near the time which this child would have had her lesson early that evening, my doorbell sounded. I answered it to find my student carrying a bouquet of flowers and a sympathy card. She told me that she was very sorry for my cat. We looked at each other. I thanked her. Then gave her a big hug. In the card and on the envelope, this 9-year old girl had drawn numerous hearts around her picturesque portrayal of me and my cat.
Surrounded by love was the message she gave.
Later that evening, I did attempt to teach a couple of high school students. It's kinda odd though as one of my students turned the tables on me.
There are a variety of questions I almost ALWAYS ask each student at the beginning of each lesson, such as "how was your week?" or "anything new going on?" or "how did that practice technique work out?"
Basically, acknowledging that...
- I understand you are more than just my music student.
- I truly care about what is going on with you.
- You are a person with a life outside these walls and what goes on out there affects what goes on in here.
- WE are a on-going group project and must work together to reach common goals.
- and I expect you to fully participate.
So my piano student asks me, "how was your week?"I couldn't really answer, or rather didn't want to answer, the question. So I simply shrugged. Now those who know me know that my face hides nothing. There may be instances where I'm better able to conceal disappointment, but for shear raw emotion, nothing is hidden. My student just looked back...paused...and opened her music to begin working. This was quite a divergence since she is an extremely talkative gal.
That question hung in my ears and the answer crawled at my throat. As we began the task of creating music, the tears pushed hotly against my eyelids. It became increasingly difficult to place my attention on the task at hand. Remember, lessons are a group project and without MY participation, there is no group.
But El. respected my boundary of silence.
No assumptions, no guesses, no further questions. What I did not offer, she did not seek to take from me. Examine the situation at face value, consider the known quantities, do not force information into inappropriate places, and be willing to acknowledge that one tiny piece of information may change the entire picture and go from there.
These are things which I seek to 'give' to my students.
- A sense of honesty and integrity
- A respect of personal boundaries
- A willingness to share of ourselves
- An openness to seeking solutions and collaborating on problems
- and a joy of creating music.
Did this make me a failure? No, it simply confirmed that I am human.
So what does all of this have to do with multiple sclerosis or life in general?
It serves as a reminder to make no assumptions, respect boundaries, and acknowledge that there are REAL PEOPLE on the other end of that keyboard with REAL LIFE EXPERIENCES. You may not know what they are, but understand that each person accumulates a variety of experiences from birth which serve to shape that person's life in vast unknown ways.
Be kind. Be respectful. Be honest. Be courageous. Be strong.
Know that YOU are surrounded by hearts as only a 9-year old can express.