Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might...
Ecclesiastes 9: 10
Profound truths are often illustrated in simple ways. When my father and mother purchased their south Louisville home in 1969, the seller offered to leave the dusty old upright piano sitting in the den for fifty dollars. No one in our family played the piano, but fifty dollars seemed a good price for a fully functioning instrument and my dad, famous for his love of a bargain, quickly gave the nod allowing the old piano to stay with us. We kids thought owning a piano was a great novelty and even if our clumsy attempts sounded nothing like real music, we steadfastly refused to allow a crescendo of sour notes to spoil our good times. Unfortunately, our parents usually thought otherwise and right in the middle of a heated jam session, either Mom or Dad, weary from the noise and racket, would race down the steps shooing us from the piano bench. And so the piano, made off-limits to the Blunk children, took on the quiet life as a mere shelf for Mom's cookbooks and family pictures.
A few years later, our parents made the acquaintance of a Korean family who had immigrated to the United States. My dad, who had served heroically during the Korean War, invited Mr. and Mrs. Song to our home for dinner. Mr. Song taught at the university and Mrs. Song, who had a degree in music, taught violin and piano. When Mrs. Song noticed the sturdy old piano sitting idly in the den, she offered music lessons to my sister Rhonda.
The piano may have stirred some romantic yearnings down deep within her soul, but I do not think Rhonda understood that learning music was a lifetime routine of hard work and practice. Especially practice. And when Mrs. Song told Rhonda she should practice two hours every day, poor Rhonda burst into tears! The idea of spending two long hours a day parked on a rickety piano bench was more than her restless heart could bear. She sobbed until Mrs. Song reluctantly agreed to reduce her daily practice from two hours to thirty minutes. Rhonda dried the tears. Thirty minutes of piano practice did not seem nearly so bad. She promised to devote a daily half an hour to the piano.
But even thirty minutes of piano soon became as drudgery. She loathed practice and, coincidentally, often came down with mysterious illnesses on those very days Mrs. Song was scheduled to stop by our home. Poor Rhonda approached the piano as a child might approach a dose of bitter tasting medicine.
As her contempt for the piano grew, the thirty minutes of daily practice became all the more insufferable. As a remedy, Rhonda began chopping her practice sessions into smaller, bite-sized increments. With the aid of an old-fashioned kitchen timer, it became her custom to practice, say, for a brief seven minute stretch, watch cartoons, practice nine minutes, telephone a class mate, practice another three minutes, drink a soda, practice four minutes, walk the dog, practice another five minutes, play Barbie dolls with a neighbor child, and then practice the final two minutes before dinner. It took some doing, but by the end of the day, Rhonda could tally up a full thirty minutes of piano practice as agreed.
Of course, no one can learn to play piano by following such a disjointed regiment and to Rhonda's great relief, our parents soon recognized the folly of continuing her music lessons. Thankfully, all was not lost; Rhonda later proved herself academically even if she cannot play Chopsticks on the keyboard. Ironically, my brother John, who never had a single music lesson in his life, learned to play that old upright piano. He taught himself to play and, amazingly, he did so without a book, without a teacher, and without Rhonda's kitchen timer! He learned by way of hard work, genuine passion, and hours and hours of dedicated practice. Let me say, too, that John plays the piano beautifully.
Dr. Michael Blunk is a staff writer for an apologetics ministry and serves full time as a chaplain with Wayside Christian Mission. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org