“No person was ever honored for what he received, honor is the reward for what he gave.” – Calvin Coolidge
Several months ago I was in Miami doing recording sessions, meetings, etc, and my feet unexplainably found their way into a famous burger fast food establishment (don’t judge me, I was hungry as hell). At the other side of the counter, taking my order, was a young man with scars and tattoos, even on his face (might’ve been prison tattoos, I’m not sure). As I walk up to him to narrate my preferences on their “lovely” and “healthy” menu I was immediately struck by his eloquence when speaking, his diligence when serving and his lovely approach to tending to my requests. A man almost eager to make sure that I was served the best damn burger and fries I ever had; and fast. By the end, he gifted me with a genuine smile and a “have a good night, sir”.
The next morning I am having breakfast at a completely packed local diner, and this Cuban-American young lady served me with the same passion, charisma and vocation as the man on the previous night. Tending to me (as well as everyone else) every couple of minutes, refilling my cup if the coffee was starting to run low, and smiling candidly throughout the whole process.
A message perhaps? Perhaps God intends to speak into our life through the most simple of people? Through the most unexpected, short, precious sort of events? I know this perhaps won’t matter or make sense to most people, but for me it was overwhelmingly valuable and enlightening!
Being a musician I have often worked at restaurants and small venues playing background music for people who, in many cases, have no intention of paying attention to what’s happening either musically or artistically, and for some who even go to the extent of telling us to “lower the volume”, or “bring it down”. I know this may indeed bring a sense of discouragement to some musicians, as well as many other things that we have to go through daily in our line of work. I know I have been discouraged. Many times asking myself if I worked and practiced countless hours to be proficient in this discipline and receive a scholarship and study hard so that somebody could tell me that my work is not worth their ears. It’s just the way the world works.
But may I propose something that has helped me greatly and that, hopefully, could help anybody reading this? May I propose loving the work? Truly earning the daily bread? Embracing with passion the task that we are given, no matter the compensation or the outcome? Whether you’re performing at a hole in the wall or Madison Square Garden, whether you’re a big time car company owner or a regular car mechanic (as my father has been for 40 years, and he has been the best there is at it too), may I propose that we do it better and more genuinely every day? As that man tended to my burger? As that lady tended to my coffee?
I find it necessary to make it clear that this is not a critique or condescension upon any specific person. This is simply a perspective on my life and mainly (but not exclusively) on my generation as observed through my own eyes. God has blessed me time and time again with the opportunities of traveling and doing what I love. I have been fortunate to perform in big stages in front of thousands of people and in small bistros for a handful of folks. There is value in what we receive when we do our work, but there is more value in what we give when we do it wholeheartedly. There is honor in it.
Sincerely, the musician: