This is my harp--isn't it lovely? I play the harp--more or less. I've been playing for a few years now, and I'm still pretty bad: I don't practice as much as I should, and I don't have much natural ability. Mark Oldenburg is responsible for my foray into the music world: when I was turning 40, he said that he subscribes to the philosophy that every new decade, you should take up a new hobby--a new language, instrument, whatever. When I was younger, I had always wanted to play the harp, but my parents--suspicious about how much a harp would cost & how I would transport it--suggested the eminently more practical flute. But now I was a grown up, and I could choose for myself. So, a few years later, I found a harp & a harp teacher and started playing.
So, I have been limping along for a few years, enjoying myself very much but not really progressing, and my harp teacher [Sharon Knowles, by the way--an amazing Celtic harpist, and a fabulous teacher] wanted to try and find something that would give me some additional motivation for practicing. She has been volunteering at the hospital for a few years now, and she suggested that I try it. I was skeptical, but I did like the idea of volunteering--it has been awhile since I've done any consistent volunteer work & I've felt guilty about that. Sure, I'm busy, but so is everyone else.
So, I went through the training, background check, flu shot, etc., etc., and finally in early December I was ready to go. Sharon promised that she would come with me the first time--did I mention that I'm not very good?--and I was really nervous about it. So, we got a date on the calendar. Well, of course, as luck would have it, she hurt her hand and couldn't play, so I was on my own. I thought about cancelling, but that seemed silly, so yesterday, I went ahead and did it.
And, an amazing thing happened: even though I did NOT do a good job--seriously, did I mention that I'm not very good?--and I made a ton of mistakes, people were so kind and supportive. I came away feeling great about the whole experience, and I learned a not-so-secret secret: people just love the harp. It's a beautiful instrument, and it sounds beautiful, even if you are just playing a scale. [I didn't actually resort to that, but it wasn't outside the realm of possibility.] The harp is so inherently lovely, you really can't screw it up.
Obviously, there is a lesson here somewhere; something about being surprised by grace and kindness, letting go of the need to be perfect, and facing your fears. It was all of that for me and more. I realized it was enough just to show up and do my best, trying to be a positive presence in a place where there is lots of illness and anxiety, and basically just riding the harp's coattails. I can't wait to go back--and I'm hoping I really will get better as time goes on!