I learned last night that sometimes the most mind-blowing talent can show up in the unlikeliest of packages.
My family and I went to hear a bluegrass and folk band play here in our little town, on the recommendation of our older daughter, who had been to a music camp last summer with the lead fiddle player in the group. Our daughter raved about his music and his personality and his capability to play all genres on his fiddle and was excited to introduce us to the sound.
My first glimpse of said fiddle player caused me to mentally check myself. Had I seen him out on the street, rather than up on stage, I would have assumed he was homeless. He wore an unassuming button-up shirt with straight-legged, rather baggy, faded black jeans and sandals that he’d clearly done a lot of walking in. The whole ensemble could have been purchased at Goodwill. On his head was a fringe of disheveled hair covered by a hat that had seen better days. He was scruffy with a beard and mustache in no apparent style or maintenance regimen.
And when he picked up the fiddle, it was pure magic.
I had two thoughts:
- I never would have expected that. He is the perfect “surprise weapon,” that stereotypical contestant on the talent show who shows up as a nobody and then proceeds to blow away the judges and audience.
- Truly, no one is a “nobody” and we’ve all come in unexpected packaging from time to time. How many “homeless” people have I encountered and discounted, who are capable of great talent in the right circumstances?
Needless to say, this was a humbling reminder to me. I have a default setting, as much as I hate it when I am consciously aware of it, of judging a book by its cover. (If this stopped at books, it would be sad, but since I have been guilty of projecting it onto humans as well, it is tragic.) Fortunately, I have been proven wrong — as I was last night — often enough to put a hitch in the system and provide incentive to work on this personal flaw. I hope I am making progress.
A few weekends ago, I was at an art show, hosted by a friend with an overabundance of talent. Immediately upon walking into the exhibit, I was drawn to the last painting at the far end of the room. From too far away to make out any details, I fell in love. Passing by all the other artwork, I bee-lined straight to this one and stood captivated. When I read the synopsis typed out next to the painting, offering some insight into my friend’s thoughts behind her work, I knew I needed to take this one home.
The painting is titled “Judgment.” The synopsis explained how it was inspired by this very idea, of how we look at someone else and make a flash decision, based on appearance or some other such shallow base, and think we know them. We have judged, labeled, and categorized without looking beyond that initial impression.
But, like the painting, when you look deeper, under the shaded, muted, blended tones, bright hints and bold colors show themselves, making an appearance only when the viewer takes the time to look. At first glance, what looks like a hurriedly done scribble (or a “homeless” guy) turns out to be a work of art, complete with layers, undertones, and unexpected surprises.
Just as I was thrilled to sit and listen to the breath-taking music last night, I am thrilled with this idea: that we humans carry magic, that we are surrounded by it, that there is the possibility of stumbling onto it in the mundane doing of our lives.
This idea has also made me wonder how many times I have appeared as a “scribble,” a rushed, childish effort of God’s handiwork and how many times I’ve been content with that perception of myself. How many times have I taken on the one-dimensional impression, without having the boldness, the courage to contribute my deeper gifts, settling for average and not letting any interesting or contrasting color show through?
It’s a lazy way out, both the acceptance of shallowness for myself, and the assigning of it in others. Lazy is easy and, many times, rushed. It takes effort and desire to pursue ourselves and those around us enough to truly know and see and share and connect and be known.
Things are not always what they seem. Thank God.
Or else, we would miss out on the thrill of finding magic in unexpected places.