I have developed a friendship with one of the teachers at my kid’s daycare. One afternoon, when I went to pick up my kid, I heard someone playing a toy harmonica for a class of children. And they were loving it. The teacher was loving it. As per our traditional afternoon routine, I knocked on her door, handed her my youngest, she played a few notes for him, and he smiled and gyrated as he alwaysdoes to the sound of music. The teacher said she was thinking of getting in to the harmonica, and showed me the tester she had bought to try out.
Now I am not a music snob by any means. People can make the most amazing music from buckets (speaking of which, check out this video I shot in Vegas of Matthew Pretty playing some of the most amazing bucket drums you will ever hear). I am not a snob, but this harmonica hurt my eyes, heart and soul. It was all plastic. Cheap plastic. Sharp-edged plastic. It was so sharp-edged, it looked like it could grate cheese. Or at the very least the lips and tongue of whoever played it. And it had a tinny sound that could make your hair stand on edge. I told her what I thought of the harmonica, and she shrugged her shoulders and agreed. “What can you do” she said.
I knew what I could do. I knew what I had to do. Letting her learn on this would be like introducing someone to the wonderful world of beer by giving them a Colt 45. Now don’t get me wrong – Colt 45 has a purpose. But it is not how one begins to explore the wonderful tastes of the world of beer. This harmonica was not representative of what makes the harmonica an instrument of the soul. And here’s the video.
Now this is not a promotion for any particular harmonica. There are a number of awesome harmonicas out there, and while I own both Hohner and Lee Oscar, for the price, I prefer Lee Oscars. So I bought her a nice G Major diatonic Lee Oscar. And I felt good. When I told others of my plans, they said “What?” or “That’s weird”. “Kind of expensive for a random gift, no?”. And it got me thinking of our priorities.
We will go out for “business lunches” and literally fight over who gets to pay the bill. After all, it’s “business development”, so our gift, our generosity, is really more of an investment which we expect to pay dividends in the long run. Similarly, we will go on a date and pay for our date’s meal without batting an eye. Again, we are investing in something that we expect to pay some sort of dividend in the long run – albeit with a return of a difference nature. But when it comes to random gifts just to make people around us happy, it becomes weird because people can’t easily and readily understand the nature of, or quantify the dividend they would expect in return.
It is said that there is no truly selfless act – there is always an underlying selfish motivation. From business lunches and the expectation of future business, to dating and the expectation of future bid’ness (see what I did there? ;), people are generally looking for some sort of return on their generosity. And maybe I am no different. In reality, the vision I had in my head of the teacher sitting in a chair on a rainy Saturday, watching YouTube “how-to” videos, riffing away on this harp made me tremendously happy. So happy in fact that the price of the harmonica totally secondary.
It’s not business development. It’s not bid’ness development. It’s just plain, old “human development”. The dividend it pays are not easily identifiable or quantifiable.In fact, I may never see them. But I am sure that someone will, and that if we all engage in a little more “human development”, the world will be become a better place.