Saint Marks Church on Second Avenue between 10th and 11th; a beautiful but modest church in a very urban park of only a few benches and some cobblestone. The piano that I found there was also modest to say the least. I stood and watched from afar as a few teenagers loitered around it, rested their bike against it, and one sat down and played a failed attempt at chopsticks. After a few moments I moved a little closer, and not long afterward a woman in her 30s with a single strand of pearls asked if it would be alright for her to play for a moment. The kids were happy to let her and when she sat at the bench and put her fingers to the keys, she said…”I haven’t played in ten years.” The piano was out of tune and her rendition of “A Whole New World” from Aladdin was rusty and full of stops and starts, flats when there should have been sharps and always a slight hesitation when her fingers were trying to feel their way for what was next. She asked if I wanted to play something too and so I sat down and played a VERY failed attempt at “Waiting in Vain.” It was so embarrassing and frustrating…why was this piano so hard to play? The lady before me had an excuse…she hadn’t played in ten years! But it seemed everyone who tried just couldn’t seem to play a perfect song!
To my surprise, it didn’t stop people from crowding around and leaning against this piano. Now forgive me for getting just a wee bit spiritual…I know it’s not always the popular approach…but we were playing in front of a church after all… and I couldn’t help but make the comparison between this sorry little piano, and us as people! How many times in life do we try so hard to be perfect, to sound or look beautiful, to impress everyone around us…but fall short. Life is full of stops and starts, sharps when there should be flats, and hesitation when we are unsure of what to do next. We are just like the imperfect piano. But just like the piano, we are also still able to create music and to fill the void with a sound so beautiful that it brings people near. We don’t need to be perfect…we simply need to be available for something bigger than us to come and to play, to use us as an instrument to create something inspiring! Whatever your religious beliefs are specifically…it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we realize that even though the world tells us that we need to be perfect, that we need to be a size four to be beautiful, to make over $100,000 to be considered successful, or go to an ivy league school to be smart…that these things are not what measure our worth. No matter how out of tune we are, we are capable of adding love and joy and music to the world in a way that no one else can, because no one else will ever be you! In this way we have an obligation to the world to be exactly who we we are and to create exactly what is in our heart to create…because if you don’t do it, no one in the history or future of the world will ever be able to. As imperfect as we are, we are unique! The woman who hadn’t played in 10 years found so much joy in simply being able to sit and play with no judgment. The sound of the piano didn’t matter. What mattered was the experience! And even through all of the stops and missed notes, the song was clearly recognizable and made everyone hum along! The imperfect piano has been the most inspiring one thus far, because I struggle with feeling like maybe I’m not cool enough…maybe my music isn’t “hip” enough, or like sometimes my life feels like a failed attempt at “Chopsticks.” But what the imperfect piano reminded me today was that, that’s ok! None of us are perfect, but we are still out their creating our own type of “music” and building our own life song. And even though there are a lot of bumps along the way…it is still recognizable as being imperfectly and uniquely ours!