i recall a moment several weeks back with hazel, the middle cherub, as i watched her hold her violin like it was a guitar, stare at me with eyes that scream, “how you like me now” and pluck the same string over and over and over and over again. when i say “ummm hazel?” she yells “whaaaaat i am practicing like you asked.” it is usually at this point that i would point out that her teacher gave her this homework and not me, or that she will not get better unless she actually practices with some sort of intention to improve, but at this point all i had in my arsenal was…
“it’s 20 minutes either way babe. you can sit there like that and pluck that one string like a champ and not get any better, or you can show up, do the work, and improve. in the end it is your choice.”
then i walked out. and i did not carry with me the burden of her getting a star on her practice chart for 100 minutes a week of good focused practice. i did not wonder if my $35 a month investment per violin would be better spent on something different or whether she would continue on in this particular musical field. i just let that be it for the day.
since then that statement–“it’s 20 minutes either way”– has messed with me. at times i feel like just dialing something in with the bare minimum effort required. at other times i’m present without really being engaged and since then in those moments bam! on the jumbotron in my head i read “it’s 20 minutes either way.” one of the lessons that came with growing up and seeing myself as i truly am is that i now have less of a temptation to try and be everything to everyone. on the other hand, if i have committed, if i have said that i will show up and do the work, then i can play the part or actually engage.
hazel can sit the violin across her belly and pretend it is a one-stringed guitar till the cows come home and if there is ever a song written that just has that one string plucked incessantly she will totally nail it. but if ever she is asked how long she took violin and then asked to share her gift, disappointment would abound on all parties involved because what a waste. she was there for 20 minutes a day and she was holding the violin and it wouldn’t always sound good but over time it would begin to sound better and better and music would flow and she would get a grasp of the beauty of the language of music that can at times speak things that no words have been allocated to express. and she would be able to communicate in this language that everyone, everywhere can understand and embrace and delight in.
you do not have to say yes to everything that is asked of you. but if you have said yes to something that has been asked, then it is a shame to say yes with your mouth and no with your life. it’s 20 minutes either way. show up. embrace whatever it is that you have devoted yourself to, whether that be a violin and bow or a calling to heal the broken. if you have said here when roll call has been run through then may you affirm that declaration as you walk with integrity through each of your own 20 minutes that makes up these days we’ve been given.