What if there are gifts all around us but we don’t notice them?
Published on: 12-01-2019
Tuesday nights were horrible nights, especially at 7:00. Around 6:00 my stomach started feeling funny, and I would be filled with dread. By 6:30, when we started our journey, I marked every traffic light we passed with my tummy twisting into big knots. You see, Tuesday night was piano lesson night with Ludmilla Berkwick, and it was the worst.
Her house, where she held lessons, seemed kind of creepy to my 9-year-old self. It was dark and looked like it hadn’t been redecorated for 100 years. Her cats were always running by my legs while I bumbled my way through my lesson. Mrs. Berkwick wasn’t that much taller than I was, and she always wore dresses and long necklaces— including one that was attached to her glasses. Her fingers were short and chubby, and her rings looked like they were stuck to her permanently.
Mrs. Berkwick started the lesson in a good mood: “What will we do today?” she’d ask in her Polish accent. But not long after I started “playing” my pieces, she’d put her head in her hands and shake it. “Oh, no, no, no,” she’d mutter. That 30-minute lesson felt like it took hours—I’m sure for her as well as for me.
To be fair, things might have gone better if I’d actually applied myself to learning piano. Instead, I detested playing and often skipped my practice time until the day before my lesson, when I’d try (too late) to learn what she’d taught me the week before. It seldom worked and that’s why I always went to my weekly lesson feeling awful.
Many years later, long after my sad piano lessons were over, I thought about Mrs. Berkwick and googled her name. To my surprise, I learned many things about her I wished I’d known before.
She was born in Russia and was a child prodigy at piano. She became a famed concert pianist in Poland in the years before World War II, and was an expert in playing the music of Polish composer Frederic Chopin. But when it was discovered that she was half Jewish, her life was in danger. She ended up hiding in Germany until the war was over. Eventually she came to the United States, but was never able to restart the type of concert pianist career she had in Europe, so she turned to teaching piano.
If I had understood what a special and extremely talented pianist Mrs. Berkwick was, maybe I would have tried harder and made it worth her while to teach me. There are probably people all around us that God has put in our paths to share their incredible gifts with us, except we don’t know it. And if we don’t know it, we may not give them the chance to help us on our way or work harder at learning from them.
As we look ahead to 2020, let’s pray that God helps us to have our eyes open to the gifts He’s placed around us through the special people He puts in our lives.