Sometimes, not often, I find my thoughts drifting toward what I don't have. When I notice myself thinking in these negative terms, I can quickly work my way out of it by looking for the silver lining and being grateful for what I have. Here are two examples.
Last night was the NWUUC choir's first rehearsal of 2012. We only had one rehearsal before our first choir Sunday of the year, and I was ready to hit the ground running with a solid rehearsal. It turned out that some of our singers were still out of town, one had a last minute meeting, and one was sick, so the choir was half its normal size. At first, I was disappointed, but my disappointment disappeared once rehearsal was underway. Those who were there sung enthusiastically. We had a terrific rehearsal, we had fun, and we're going to sound good on Sunday. Rather than obsessing about the singers who weren't able to make it, I chose to focus on the singers who were there and give them my all. I love making music with this group. Even though only half the choir was there, I ended rehearsal feeling happy, energized, and ready for Sunday.
If my life had turned out the way I originally planned it, I would be a band director right now at either a large high school or a college, happily married with children, and ensconced in a respectable home. The band director thing fell by the wayside when I discovered that I simply didn't like it! Through a convoluted path, I've ended up living in a basement studio apartment as a divorced freelance musician. Sometimes I catch myself thinking of what could have been, or at the very least, wishing I could afford a bigger place. Lately, something happened that gives me perspective.
A couple weeks ago, I went to Maggiano's to have dinner with friends and listen to another friend, Tom Olsen, play with his jazz trio. It was a pleasant evening, and I left Maggiano's with another entire meal's worth of ravioli. Driving home, I saw a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk next to his shopping cart, surrounded by his stuff, using his fingers to lick the last vestiges of frosting from a plastic tray of cupcakes that he had found in the trash. I stopped the car, got out, and gave him my ravioli and a couple dollars. From the look on his face, you'd have thought I had given him a pot of gold. He cried and thanked me, telling me that I just proved there were still good people in the world.
As I got in my car and drove back home, my studio apartment suddenly seemed like a castle. My small income seemed like a fortune. I may not have the proverbial house and a picket fence, but I have a roof, food, and friends who care about me. In the future, when I find myself wishing I had more, I'll just need to remember that poor homeless man to regain perspective and be grateful for what I have.
- Tom Godfrey
- Atlanta, GA, United States
- When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995 and have been music director at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation since 2011.