Saturday, October 25, 2008

You can call me Arthur

Today at Cave9, our unusual violin student was back. This man has some difficulty with speech, not so much a stutter as forming the words without any sound happening. He has lived through some rough times, but his eyes are gentle--perhaps even a bit apprehensive of rejection. I asked Claudia if she was comfortable working with him. She said, "Sure!", but I signalled to Jimmy to keep an eye out, which he already was.

Claudia worked with him for a long time, maybe an hour, and I could hear his progress through the pages of the violin method book. As he was leaving, he waved at the donation jar and said something that I understood to mean he didn't have anything to donate. I told him not to worry about it. He pushed the door open, then very deliberately turned back and said, "Thank you!" He hitched up his sagging and ragged pants and headed down 23rd Street.

Claudia came up to me excitedly because he had left her two of his poems. This is a person who I've not asked to fill out a registration form for fear of scaring him away, so I asked if she'd gotten his name: "Tovarias, but you can call me Arthur." She said Arthur stopped often to pray during his lesson, once for more than a minute.

Arthur left me with a still center. We gave him music and he gave us poetry. And he gave me peace, knowing that I am participating in something profoundly beautiful and spiritual and human, knowing that I am sharing that with Claudia and Elliot and Rick and Jimmy and Mary Lee.

Mary Lee keeps warning us that her piano skills are limited. But like each of our teachers, she has something beyond music to give that no one else has. Some of the youngest and most difficult children from the housing project bounce in the door and scan the room for her. Not the brownies, not their friends. They want to sit at the keyboard and learn from Mary Lee Rice.

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