On Sunday, I played the piano again at our local shopping mall. I had promised to stand in for the usual pianist, so although I wasn’t supposed to put in my contact lenses until after seeing the eye doctor tomorrow, I’m afraid I cheated, and did. It’s been awful this past week, trying to manage with specs I’m not used to, but with the antibiotics, the eye infection seems to have cleared up.
There were many shoppers, and I really enjoyed playing for them.
Quite a few people stopped to say “thank you for the beautiful music,” and I was feeling so good, until something happened which really threw me. An elderly man came up to the piano, smiled at me and thanked me. He then bent down and put a R10 note on the stool next to me. I was so taken aback that I stopped playing, snatched it up and tried to give it back to him, saying, “No, no, you mustn’t do that. I do get paid for playing here.” I must tell you that he didn’t look at all well off, in fact quite the opposite. We had quite a tussle with this R10, but he absolutely refused to take it back, and pressed it firmly into my hand. “I want you to have it because you play with such care, and I so appreciate that,” he said. When he eventually walked away, I felt quite shaken and had difficulty getting back into my playing, as I was feeling so bad about taking his money.
I kept wondering if I should just have just accepted it gracefully and thanked him, instead of feeling so awkward about the whole episode. I hoped that I hadn’t diminished his joy of giving, by my unwillingness to accept his thank you gift. I wondered if he was disappointed at my reaction, and it was on my mind for the rest of the day, and as you can see by this post, I’m still thinking about it.
I remember many years ago, a sweet old lady came past, and put a R2 coin on the piano, and I felt bad that she’d given me this money probably out of her pension. I know these are very small amounts I’m talking about, but I felt on both occasions that it was some sort of sacrifice on their part, and here was I with plenty of everything, being given money that they could maybe ill afford to part with.
I think we are usually taught that “it is better to give than to receive,” but are we ever instructed on how to graciously receive unexpected compliments, gifts, or unnecessary acts of kindness? If we learn to do this, we allow the giver to express themselves, and with a smile and a “thank you,” we honour their act of giving. It’s possible to balance the acts of giving and receiving, so that both the giver and the receiver benefit equally, and I hope that I’ve learned my lesson, so that in future, I will be a good receiver. I will of course pass on that money to someone else in the very near future; pay it forward, as it were, and hope that they don’t throw it back at me.
On a lighter note, I was just remembering how, when I was quite young, and was playing one evening in a very up-market restaurant, a business man who was entertaining clients, sent over a request for “Tea for two,” together with a R200 note, and his business card with his phone number underlined. I played the request, accepted the money, but sent back his card with the waiter.
Have a great day everyone. Chat again soon.