It is a great blessing to feel useful and this week, there were multiple opportunities. The guest class with 7th graders where I found yet another rambunctious boy with a great dance move and praised him publicly. The teacher who was my Level III student who asked advice for songs to commemorate a colleague at school who unexpectedly died. The chance to play piano in a new wing of the Jewish Home and light up people’s lives with energizing and soothing music for an hour. Organizing the annual caroling and leading some 45 people from 2 years old to 75, from the neighborhood, from the school, from the family and some who just saw and heard us and joined in, throughout the Inner Sunset bringing some happiness and cheer to the folks dining out in the parklets. Calling an old neighborhood couple who have been coming since 1982 and had to stay home for health reasons and including them on Facetime for a few songs. And so forth.
Kindness is simple, is its own reward, is the dutiful payback for all the help we received without feeling like a duty, because it brings pleasure to the giver and receiver alike. I never knew what use some 20,000 hours of practicing piano and other instruments would be put to, but alongside another 30,000 hours of teaching, it seems there’s a place for it in the world to bring some measure of happiness, comfort and togetherness to people. To put them out of clock time into the timeless world where everything makes sense and every note speaks to a sense of beauty that helps us forget the ugliness, that erases momentarily the cares and woes that besiege us, that unites us through the mere power of organized vibrations. All that work has bequeathed me a power more potent than money and position, have hired me to be an ambassador of joy, given the possibility of both comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable (because music also moves us out of mere elevator-muzak pleasantness and challenges us to listen from some deeper parts of ourselves).
Last night’s caroling began gathered in front of the park’s Arboretum and singing our way through the printed sheets of lyrics, from the sublime Silent Night to the whimsical Frosty the Snowman to the glorious Angels We Have Heard on High to the silly wrong words to Jingle Bells, something for everyone so kids and adults alike were equally delighted. We moved into the business district, where the pandemic proliferation of parklets allowed us to sing to the outdoor diners and also include them in some of the songs. We moved from 9th Avenue to 6th and families started to peel off until we were left with some 10 singers. We stopped at a house where a single person had come down and opened her door to listen to us and when she had to leave, gathered in a small circle while an opera-trained singer sang a solo version (with me on guitar) of O Holy Night. A perfect ending to the evening and it was a Holy Night indeed.
Next year will be the 40th year of neighborhood caroling that I have led and “if the Fates allow,” I hope for at least ten or twenty more. Meanwhile, a good time to start training my replacement so that the Ambassadorship of Joy continue. With the correct guitar chords.