24 September 2009

Thank You Michael

The place: Los Altos LDS chapel. The event: ordinary, I just needed some practice time on the organ and piano. The surprise: Michael.

The organ at the Los Altos chapel is not particularly good, but it was adequate to practice on. I was working my way through a favorite toccata when suddenly a small boy's eager face popped up above the side of the console. Bright blue eyes, tousled blond hair, Cub Scout shirt. I stopped.

Hello, who are you?

Michael! (big smile)

Pleased to meet you Michael. Do you like music?

Yeah! I play too!

How old are you?


Would you like to play this organ?


Okay, come have a seat.

(Michael sat down next to me)

You know, Michael, I started playing when I was nine too.

Really? Well, actually I started when I was five.

That's funny, because actually I started lessons when I was nine, but I started playing when I was five too.


And I used to sneak out of Cub Scouts to go play too.

Really? Wow!

OK, go ahead and play something for me.

I got off the bench and pushed it in close so he could reach the keyboard. Michael instantly began playing something with great enthusiasm, and not without his share of mistakes. But he pressed on regardless. I praised him when he was finished.

That was great, Michael. You're a good player.


At this point Michael's parents appeared, they were in charge of the Cub Scouts that night. They introduced and apologized for his interrupting my practicing. I assured them it was no problem. They said Michael, try playing Happy Birthday.

He did. Again, not without a few mistakes (the organ can be intimidating for a small boy), but he got through it. And it wasn't just a barely contrived imitation either, Michael knew it well, complete with chords in harmonic progression. Clearly he had taken lessons and had practiced.

So I said Slide over Michael, we are going to play a duet. He did. He played the melody, I added basso profundo chords in harmony and the pedals for the full theater organ effect. We played Happy Birthday together and ended with a crash bang flourish. He was practically jumping with excitement to have been part of generating such glorious noise.

His beaming parents said Come on, Michael, we should let him get back to his practicing. So Michael and I shook hands and he went back to the Cub Scouts.

As I watched him walk away I thought of the curious irony I'd just seen. Some years back there was another small blond blue-eyed boy who used to sneak away from church activities to go practice on the organ and piano in his local chapel. He too started playing when he was five, and was taking lessons at nine. He too couldn't resist going in to listen whenever he heard a skilled grown-up practicing on the organ or piano. He too was full of enthusiasm and eagerness to play and wasn't afraid to try music that challenged him. His life ended up filled with amazing musical adventures and he did achieve his dream of playing in some great cathedrals. He also grew up to realize that there were other ways he wasn't like the other boys, and that there was a good chance that boys who sought out music like he did at such an early age might end up liking other boys too, like he did.

So I wondered as I watched a happy, bouncing Cub Scout walk out of the chapel where Stuart Matis left us. What is your destiny, Michael? In you I see myself, years ago. What will your life become? Will you stay with the music? Will you play in the great cathedrals too? Will you too find one day that you like boys perhaps more than the other Cub Scouts do?

God willing, by the time you are a man, I and others will have won some battles and, if you do end up joining our ranks, your life will be easier and smoother than ours have been. We owe it not only to Stuart and Doug and those who've already gone ahead, but to you and the countless other Michaels who are following us. So that your happy smile and infectious enthusiasm and sparkling eyes will stay happy and infectious and sparkling as you grow to manhood, and you'll be able to find your own way and life and happiness in a society that is more ready to welcome you just the way God made you.

Thank you Michael, for letting me see the past and the future together, and for refreshing my resolve.


Bravone said...

Beautiful spirit. Thank you.

Sean said...

Great story. I too started my life long musical adventures in a similar way. The organ is a curious instrument. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

This is what I hope for my little "Michael." Thanks for being a part of that.

Troy said...

aw :)

boskers said...

really beautiful.

Original Mohomie said...

Cute story, well told.

Chris said...

Just the story I needed tonight. Thanks :)

Beck said...

Very sweet. So many of us can relate to that little boy as we were that little boy, me included.