Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Best Reason to Practice

A true Story, told by Dr. Beth Cantrell, Nov 3, 1998

The Afternoon had been an ordinary teaching adventure. Then, late in the day I received a great gift of wisdom in a most touching way.

The student and his mother were already in my room when I returned from the school office where I teach;, chair and rug in place, cello and bow unpacked and ready to go.

"Okay," said mom, "time for cello, take your seat."

"The child dissolved into tears. "I don't want to play cello!" came the response.

"Yes, but it's your lesson time."

"I don't want to play cello!"

"We can talk about that after the lesson. Please sit down in your chair."

Oh, I thought, this is going to be a challenge. I cast about in my mind for what to do next, the boy clung more tightly to his mother, and the wailing grew louder. When mom finally offered to count to three, an offer he evidently couldn't refuse, the boy did sit down, but the sobbing continued.

As I sat on the floor in front of the little chair, smile frozen on my face, all the stories about such occurrences shared by colleagues, or in teacher training (what to do if...) flashed back through memory.

As the wailing continued, I frantically darted about mentally, failing to discover any sure fire tricks lying about unnoticed. At last, after an interminable 45 seconds or so, with an inward smile over this little one's woe, I excused him to blow his nose, which was now running copiously. After all, I thought, one can laugh or cry over this. It would be better if I didn't cry, too.

Whilst the youngster busied himself with his tissue, in a hushed and hurried exchange with the mother, we agreed that we wouldn't stop the lesson. The child returned, quiet at last, but dragging his feet. He looked at the two of us, then climbed into mom's lap.

"I don't want to play cello." Same song, next verse.

And then came a woundrous moment. Mom rocked the boy, and asked in a tender voice, "Do you think if you said you didn't want to go to school, I'd let you stay home?"

"No," came the snuffly response.

"Do you think if you didn't want to eat, I'd let you starve?"

"No." (sniff)

"Do you think if you wouldn't drink, I'd let you go thirsty?"


"Well, cello feeds you, too, in here (she tapped his chest gently). It feeds part of you that you can't see, your heart and your soul and your spirit. I won't let you go hungry and thirsty there, either."

As I sat in humble silence before this great truth, reflecting on how the boy's cello time had become my life lesson, he slid off his mother's lap. Smiling, he sat down in his chair and proceeded to have a delightful lesson.

The answer had satisfied him. He had learned the best reason to practice.

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