This I Believe

James - Denver, Colorado
Entered on October 14, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: creativity
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Revolution and Conflict

The Importance of Sincerity

I play the cello, and have often gone up to Boulder to perform on the pedestrian mall in hopes of earning a little extra cash. With my instrument on my back, a stand in one hand and a folding chair in the other, I catch the bus from downtown Denver and arrive at Pearl St. Mall 45 minutes later. At first, I treated the experience with little seriousness, just a way to have fun playing and hopefully get some spare change thrown my way. I came to find the enterprise quite lucrative though, and started to think of it as a real job. I made sure I was at the mall during the time when the most people would be out. I scouted for the spots that had the most pedestrian traffic. I tried to count the money that was put into my case to see if I was making what I considered to be a good average: fifty cents a minute. With these business issues on my mind, I forgot about the musical part of the activity. My relationship to the music was very different from the caring way I treated playing in a private lesson or a formal concert. This outlook changed when I was confronted with sincerity.

I had chosen a particularly hot Saturday to play, and was about to call it quits after two and a half hours. I wanted to stay a little longer though, for it had been quite a while since some old lady eager to ‘support the youth’ had dropped a five into my case. There was also an elderly man sitting on a bench ten feet in front of me. He had been listening for about half an hour. He looked like the kind of person who might make a donation. After about fifteen minutes he was still sitting there, and so I started to pack up. As I was putting my cello away, I noticed him walking up to me. I turned and almost knocked right into him because he came so close. He stood there for a moment, right in front of me, looked me in the eye, and said, “I haven’t enjoyed anything like that in a long time. Thank you.” I was a little taken aback by his seriousness. I said it was my pleasure, and I was glad he liked it, still hoping to get some money. He didn’t reach for his wallet though. He just smiled and walked away. Suddenly, I realized how much he meant what he said. His words were now more valuable than any of the bills and coins I received. He helped me realize that when people gave me money, they weren’t just throwing the change from their ice cream cone into my case. They were really showing appreciation for my performance. I learned that when we do things with sincerity, our actions are truly valuable.