A few weeks ago, I went to my niece’s violin recital. Lauren is a willowy mellow musical 17, but her teacher takes students from ages 5 on up, so the program would feature many skill levels. Our family arrived early and so we spent quite a few minutes waiting for it to start.
I looked around and eavesdropped (I’m an introvert and eavesdropping is the carrot that brings me out in public). No matter what they were talking about, people were looking to the door where the performers would come out to the stage.
Finally the door opened and the audience drew in a collective, calming breath. The first student was a little girl. She carried her half-size violin (Ever seen one? Cute as a kitten) awkwardly. Little coos, sounds you make to a kitten, came from all over the audience. Either her family had planted itself apart for some reason or many people were charmed by her.
The teacher, who hadn’t looked like King Kong until that moment, took the half-size violin and put it on her shoulder to check the tuning. People checked their programs, whispered, pointed and I was enveloped in a cloud of positive anticipation.
Of course she played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Of course she did. Of course it was squeaky and somewhat scratchy. Then she burst into a huge grin. And I knew with absolute certainty who her people were, and not just because of the familial eyebrows.
But we were all her fans. Her family clapped the loudest, but we all clapped hard. And the cloud was now one of positive relief. She had done it. And think of how much we, the audience, helped. I wasn’t just being polite, clapping for this little girl, hoping her family would clap at least as hard for my niece. No, I was Recital Nice.
I assumed the best intentions of each violinist. They weren’t going to step out on stage and try to sound terrible. They may have flowed to this evening on various currents of willingness, but now that they were here in front of me, I could help them and I hope I did.
I wish I could be recital nice without thinking about it. I wish I could always, on the most basic level, assume best intentions. We are all here, jostling into each other on the planet. But too often, I’m just in my bubble, worrying about if I have the right change for the bus or remembered my lunch.
When I get to work and the phone rings, am I automatically ready to help whoever is on the line? Am I willing to assume their best intentions? Do I assume my own best intentions? I will try. The next time I know I’m losing perspective. I will close my eyes and conjure up Twinkle Twinkle Little Star played very badly and very sincerely.