Why Not Me?

Last week a student sat in the hard wooden chair to my left, brow furrowed just a bit, focused on the notes, violin under chin, playing away. Her dream is to go to college for veterinarian medicine. Fiddling is her fun hobby. Her mother said she wants to get into a really competitive school. Only certain top students get in.

A few weeks ago, my own son toured Notre Dame University, wide eyed and lovestruck with the culture the school oozes from its very own pores. Notre Dame accepts 18% of their applicants yearly. The current freshman class beat out thousands of other applicants, over 100 of which graduated high school scoring  perfect SAT’s and ACT’s.

What would change if my sweet violinist and my gifted son ask themselves – Why. Not. Me?

Somebody is at vet school. In fact there are lots of people at vet school or it wouldn’t exist. Lots of somebodies make up that 18% that Notre Dame tells YES each year. What if, instead of looking at the wall, we looked at the opportunity?

How could simply changing the dialogue change the outcome?

Where in your life should you be asking Why. Not. Me?


The Church with Bluegrass

When we moved to York, we searched for a church on the internet. Certain needs dictated the types of churches we’d consider attending, with one main issue being the time of service. We found Allison Creek.

Now, Allison Creek sits up high on this hill that’s been there for centuries. Roads have formed and neighbors have popped up in homes and communities around the hill, and for the past 165 years, Allison Creek Church has watched and welcomed from a top its perch. It’s a pretty church and a common marker for those describing the area. You know, the big white clapboard church on that hill that y’all can see from…..

We had obviously seen Allison Creek from the road driving by, so when the search parameters matched the church, we tried it. What we found was a wonderful church home.

After we’d attended for a few weeks, someone invited us to the bluegrass concert that Allison Creek hosts twice monthly. It’s open to the whole community, it’s free, and there are hamburgers and hotdogs and baked goods for sale. Well, we went. And then we went again. And then the boys couldn’t wait to go back again, and again. My youngest asked for a banjo. My oldest asked for a dobro. Then a guitar. Then a violin. The bluegrass there is always quality and the community welcomes my whole family into their folds. Never in a million years would I think that by finding a church on the internet, we’d gain the support of a whole community of people AND bluegrass musicians. (Of course, church is largely about community, but I was mainly aiming for a 10am service and some coffee afterwards.)

It’s been three years of bluegrass concerts and two years of banjo lessons and one year now of violin lessons and I am blown away at God’s creativity. My boys soak up the music and the attention from the old guys and the opportunities to jam with some of the best musicians around. And these people gladly and patiently offer attention and tips to the next generation of bluegrass players. And all the time, God knew we would land here.

I think back to years ago, when my banjo player was at most two years old. My sister plays banjo and she pulled him up on her lap and sat him there with just the two of them and her instrument and I still remember how he stopped fidgeting. He gently reached down and plucked those strings, mesmerized. She grabbed her phone and snapped a picture of his chubby little fingers. It was one of those small quiet moments that ends up staying with you. A pause in a day that can cause pause years later.

I think to the year I’ve spent teaching my older son violin and how much joy it’s brought us both. It’s a unique kind of happy to play music with your child. He’s a natural, catching on quickly and teaching himself new notes before we even practice them.

Yep, God knew we’d go where the music played. God knew because He put the bluegrass here and he planted the music in my boys. And I am so very, very grateful.

Mr. Jimmy

Mr. Jimmy is my son’s banjo teacher.  We love Mr. Jimmy in a way I cannot easily express here on the written page.  The man is a what you are picturing “a banjo teaching Mr. Jimmy” to be.  He wears the same pair of jeans and the same t-shirt every week.  We named his t-shirt the Monday shirt because our lessons are on Mondays and he’s always wearing it.  One week we rescheduled for Thursday and Mr. Jimmy had on a different shirt.  No belt.  Hikes up those jeans every time he stands up.  Over 70 years old.  Has foot problems, so he goes barefoot in the house.  Dips.  As in keeps his spit can on the floor next to his chair so he can lean over and spit his dip juice from time to time.  Clean shaven and neat.  Hard of hearing.  Writes out music by hand – in tableture form – and gives it to my boy for practice.

Probably, just maybe, one of the best banjo players living currently.  Earl Scruggs is the Godfather of three finger picking.  Hubert Davis learned banjo from Earl Scruggs and Mr. Jimmy learned banjo from Hubert Davis.  Met Earl Scruggs.  Travelled the country.  Made it as a professional banjo player.  And now teaches little guys like mine in his old age.

The whole reason I am telling you about Mr. Jimmy is because of who he is to my sons.  Our lives are just better because of our Mondays with Mr. Jimmy.  Every week when I pull up in that driveway, Mr. Jimmy stands on his porch, waves to us, and yells out, “You bring me a banjo picker?  Is that my Kelly?  I ain’t heard no good banjo pickin’ since y’all left me here last week!”  And Kelly beams.

“Come play me a tune, Mr. Kelly Belly!  Those girls gonna be chasin’ you in no time!  Momma, those girls chasin’ Kelly here yet?  Gonna be no time at all, he gonna have ’em after him with his banjo pickin’.”  “How you doin’ Key (that’s my older son that comes to read and listen most weeks).  You doin’ all right?”

My boys look forward to seeing this man every single week because he is encouraging, respectful, and joyful to be around.  He shares music with these that will carry music into the next generations.  He builds them up. Engages.  Is present for them.  Shares wisdom through his interactions.  The man makes them feel good about themselves.  If only all teachers could do these things.

I mean, “You don’t want them gettin’ flusterated.  They won’t want to keep goin’ if it ain’t fun no more. Gotta give ’em somethin’ from the start to feel good about.  Start ’em with a song.  That way they can feel good and have something to play.  Those books, they start with all those scales and stuff.  It ain’t no fun.  And then they quit.  No, I want don’t want Kelly gettin’ no flusterated. He’s a right good little banjo picker.  Ain’t ya’ Kelly?  You a good banjo picker?  Course you are!”

I mean, is there a better way to start the Mondays?  I really don’t see it to be possible.

Especially if you’re Kelly.