“Big Inspiration”… a Look at Perspectives

April 5th, 2017

big_inpiration By Reed Thomas, Manager of the Music Community Engagement Training Site

In this article, I’d like to share with you an experience that I had last year. I was holding a recreational event at one of The Arc Mercer’s group homes (a cook-out and jam session) when I saw Celesta B. arrive with her roommates and staff members. Celesta has been taking private drum lessons with me for a few months now, and I was happy to see her coming out to a recreational music event. I noticed that she was carrying a large green piece of paper. As she approached me and gave me a hug, she said “here, this is for you.” As I unfolded the paper, (which was the size of a poster folded in half) I saw that it said “To Reid, Big Inspiration. Mail for Reid” on the front and had a hand-drawn picture of a house. I opened it up and on the inside it read “To Reid, this card is just for you, and I just want to say thank you for being my music teacher. I love you. And how was your 4th of July? Ours was great and I just want to say thank you for letting me play in your band. Love, Celesta. P.S. you are a big inspiration to all of us.”

To give you a bit of background on this story, while hosting a karaoke event a few months earlier, I watched Celesta air-drumming while someone else was singing. As I watched, I realized her movements were correct as if she was sitting at a drum set. I pulled her aside and asked if she had ever played drums before, and she said no. I then asked if she would like to start learning to play, and she said she would. With that, I found room in my weekly schedule, and we started working together. Happily, my suspicion proved correct and she caught on to playing the drums very quickly. In fact, after only one month she was able to start performing as part of the band at our monthly concert. I continue to see her each week, and she continues to improve and perform with us monthly.

By now, you may be thinking that this is a lovely story but questioning the point. The point is this: how people’s perspectives can differ. To me, teaching people to play musical instruments is commonplace. It is something that I’ve been doing since the late 90’s and do quite regularly today. Now don’t misunderstand me. I like Celesta very much. She is a sweet person. She has a positive attitude, and she has been a great student to work with. That being said, working with her was just routine for me.

It wasn’t until she presented me with the card that I got a sense of what our weekly lesson meant to her. The 4th of July is not a holiday for which cards are generally given. She had no reason to give it to me other than the fact that learning the drums and being directly involved with music (which I now know to be a passion of hers) has really had a big impact on her life. After coming to this realization and feeling a bit foolish for not having noticed the impact on her earlier, I decided to ask her directly how she felt about drumming, music and if she’d mind if I shared this story. She said she’d be happy to speak to me about it.

Here’s what I learned:

Me: How do you feel when you play the drums?

Celesta: I feel excited because you’re helping me out and teaching me … It’s fun, I feel happy. To me, it feels like I’m at a rock concert. I enjoy practicing.

Me: What are your goals for the future with drumming?

Celesta: I want to be in a marching band, in a parade.
(We perform at the Disabilities Pride Parade every year, so I hope we will be able to fulfill that goal.)

Me: What made you decide to make me that card?

Celesta: Cause you’re a nice person, and you’re a loving person. You’re a good man, and a hard worker, and you’re kind.

Me: Do you ever think you will stop playing the drums?

Celesta: No way! I’ll play until the day I go to heaven, and I won’t stop then either!

I want to share this story with you to demonstrate the impact something as simple as going through your daily routine can have on someone else. What may be average, standard, or even boring to you, may make a change or inspire someone else in ways you never imagined. Please don’t take the potential of your actions for granted. It may mean the world to others. I am glad I have affected Celesta’s life in a positive way, and her simple act of making me a card has opened my eyes to what helping someone can do for them and for you. Even though her card is gigantic, you could find it hanging on my refrigerator at home with the biggest magnets I could find!