When I was a kid, we had what I always called the ‘piano man’ ~ a music box of a man with a mustache playing “The Entertainer”. Holding the music box in my hands and watching the mechanism play those notes is one of those childhood memories shot through with the feeling of wonder and imagination… the ‘piano man’ was a simple joy to little me. Over the years, our family moved pretty often… at some point, the piano man was lost. For years and years, I’ve kept my eyes open for him, but I’ve never seen another music box like it.
When the kids and I went to Tennessee last week, there was a bakery/antique store that I decided to visit (mainly for the cinnamon rolls 😊). As I contemplated how many cinnamon rolls we’d need for breakfast, I started wandering around the store. The thought that I would find the ‘piano man’ popped into my head and I looked a little more carefully, meandering through all of the separate rooms and sections of the store. I didn’t see him… BUT as I re-traced my steps through a room I’d already walked through ~ I saw the same type of music box on a shelf! It was a grand piano, the player was long-haired, and it wasn’t the same one from my childhood… all the same, I was excited! I picked it up, listened to its song, and started telling my daughter about the similar one I’d had as a kid.
There was a woman standing nearby and she suddenly said, “Was it more of a stand-up piano?” Surprised, I told her that it was ~ it was an upright piano with a man in a hat. And then she said, “I have that one at home in my garage! It’s in a box of stuff I’m going to sell!” Home was Chicago, so I knew I couldn’t make it to her garage sale… but we talked about the music boxes for a bit and I expressed how much I’d liked the piano man when I was little.
We both moved on through the store (and I did, of course, buy the music box I HAD found)… but then she found me again and asked me to write down my address. She wanted to send me the music box once she got back home to Chicago.
I wasn’t sure if she’d really remember or if she would take the time to mail something to a stranger she crossed paths with on a random weekday morning in a small-town shop… but she did.
I opened a box that came in today’s mail and there he was, his hat and mustache and sheet music exactly as I remember. I wound it up and it started playing the notes I knew so well.
I’m still sort of stunned that the story unfolded this way… such a simple thing, really, but it means so much to me. I’m so grateful for the kindness of a stranger to go out of her way to bring joy to someone she doesn’t even know.
I’m grateful to have this little piece of childhood wonder sitting on my shelf… especially because I’ve felt a little at loose ends lately, wondering and praying about the dreams I’ve always carried… wondering if there is still worth there, wondering if the wrong turns and false starts I’ve made in the past mean that it’s too late, wondering if the hopes planted in my little-girl heart so long ago still matter.
We’ve been talking at my home church lately about just that ~ about how God restores our dreams. The messages came at the perfect time and this piano man shows me again ~ we never know when something we thought forever-lost will be restored to us. It’s small, but all the same ~ this is a treasure to me. If God cares about this simple hope I had to find a music box… I can’t begin to comprehend how much He cares about the pivotal desires of my heart.
From start to finish, He knows us. He knows our stories. And He promises to finish the work He began. (Philippians 1:6)
So we keep trusting in a good Father who knows exactly ~ exactly! ~ what we need and when we need it. And this brings the wild freedom to dream, to hope, to expect all things to work together for our good. (Romans 8:28)
It may be the notes of the “Entertainer” playing on this unlikely gift in front of me, but what I’m hearing is a melody of hope and faithfulness.
Play on, Piano Man. I’m listening.
(To see the Piano Man see “So Beloved with Christie Lambert” on Facebook)