One night, about 8 years ago, I was taking my daily walk around the neighborhood and heard a sound like a violin coming from the distance as the sun was setting. How beautiful the sunrise and the sunset can be! What a great time of solitude these walks can be to reflect on God's creation and search for ways to improve as a person to “do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8) .”
And then I decided to call my friend Howard, a fellow social worker from New Orleans, to catch up on things. Little did I know that Rosh Hashanah was beginning the following day, so Howard, a member of a Conservative Jewish Congregation, was looking forward to the High Holy Days. Maybe that was a shofar that I had heard earlier in the neighborhood? Anyway, I wished Howard a Happy New Year! I know how important the Sabbath, Passover and many other festivals and traditions are to him just like my faith-walk.
Howard recounted to me how special those High Holy Days are for him and his family. That marked the second year since his father Saul had died and would not be with Howard and family for the traditional Judaic observances. Howard reminded me about Yom Kippur being a Day of Atonement, as well as repentance, fasting and prayer that are central to that tradition.
Also, we shared with each other about our beloved New Orleans Saints and anxiously awaiting for the 1st game of the New Orleans Saints against the Vikings (Oops ... I know we still have a bad after taste in our mouths after the recent 2017 bitter last minute loss to dem Vikings!), as we had been still gloating so much as “Who Dat's” about the Saints being the Super Bowl champs from earlier in that year of 2010 (2009 Season). Saul used to love to watch the 'Aints games with Howard, and while he wasn't around to watch them beat the Vikings in the playoffs and the Colts in the Super Bowl earlier that year of 2009, he certainly was with us in spirit!
So in updating Howard about my new job then and other family matters, I mentioned to him about JP, then our 12 y/o, having decided to take up violin lessons with his friend Nicholas. Their Cypress Heights Academy Music Teacher Lawrence had brought his violin to school a few weeks earlier, so it must have made a deep connection to both JP and Nicholas.
It was like déjà vu when JP asked then about getting a violin and taking lessons at LSU Academy of Music, where Lawrence had recommended. Five years before that, I recalled taking JP to the Shaw Center on a Saturday when they had some kind of free arts day for kids to get first-hand experience with things like musical instruments and crafts like pottery.
I remember the music instructor at the 2004 Shaw gathering just giving JP the violin to get a feel for the instrument and how to hold it. She couldn't believe how quickly JP had correctly positioned the violin under his chin and held the bow. I took a picture of “the little maestro,” like I had done a little earlier at the function when he used the pottery wheel to shape a little bowl. It just goes to show you never know what some simple educational event can do to plant a seed for something you may eventually develop as a talent for God.
Howard was excited to hear about JP's interest in music, especially the violin. It dawned on me right then and there that this was no coincidence for the timing of my call to Howard, the High Holy Days and JP's interest in the violin. I mentioned to Howard about our love of the movie, “Fiddler on the Roof” and how I had begun a better appreciation of Judaism per the many times that I have watched that movie with our family.
We always got a kick of Tevye singing and dancing to “If I were a Rich Man,” which I thought I had to be in order to afford the price of a violin. Actually, I did some shopping around and we were able to get a nice one locally for JP for $ 150. And while I didn't have to “marry off” as many daughters as Tevye did, I really loved the way he depicted dealing with the common struggles we all share in life as an individual, spouse or parent, as well as with crossing over cultural boundaries that are part and parcel with the human condition. I still get goosebumps when I think of those great scenes from “The Bottle and Wedding Dances.”
Also, that summer, “Diary of a Young Woman” about Anne Frank was included in JP's summer reading requirements, so he got a deeper appreciation of what serious struggles people of the Jewish faith have had to deal with for many years, as was so well-depicted in the “Fiddler” movie. Even more poignant for JP was his opportunity during the People to People European Tour he attended this summer. He actually went to the home where Anne Frank and her family hid in Amsterdam before getting caught.
As we had begun a new tradition of violin playing in our family, and I still continue to pluck on my guitar strings, may we join Tevye and be ever attentive to listening for “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Uh oh – some glass just broke in the house; Is it JP - The Fiddler live from the roof or is it Memorex?