Scott on April 12, 2009 at 8:52 am
There is an old Myra Welch poem that was written in the 1920′s called “The Touch of the Master’s Hand.” In it, Welch describes an old violin sitting in an auction house waiting to be sold. She contrasts its perceived value by the crowd of people before and after it has been played by a master violinists. The contrast comes in that at first the people in the crowd see only an old violin, scratched and dusty, barely worth notice. Just as the violin is about to be sold for a few dollars, an old man steps forward and plays it. Now the crowd’s perceptions change because they are faced with a different reality. What they at first thought was an old piece of junk turns out to be an instrument of great worth capable of making beautiful music. The auction continues but now the violin is sold for thousands of dollars.
Talk about a juxtapositioning, a contast between perception and reality!
And there we come to the heart of the Christian faith: What the world believes people are worth and what the Lord knows people are worth. A couple years ago I took Myra Welch’s poem and worked into a short story of sorts…
Grace and Peace
The Touch of the Master’s Hand
(Adapted from a poem by Myra Welsh)
An auction house sat on the side of the road, the view through its dusty windows obscured by the collected wealth of times gone by: old phonographs, an antique coffee table, pictures of Elvis, a collection of 70′s rock albums, a box of old romance and adventure novels, a child’s tricycle.
Inside, on the table in front of the auctioneer, was an old violin case, open to the waiting crowd. The dusty red velvet interior had seen better days as it was torn in several places and discolored by the resin that had collected over the years. The violin within looked no better than its case. It was battered and scarred, covered in a layer of dust. It had obviously long been neglected in a dark corner on some forgotten shelf.
The auctioneer thought to himself that the violin was scarcely worth his while. Nevertheless, taking his eyes off the old instrument he gazed out into the waiting crowd. Putting on his best smile, he picked up the violin and lifted it high for the bidders to see.
“I know this isn’t much, but it’s the last item in the lot. What am I bid, good people?” he cried. “Who’ll start to bid for me on this old violin? A dollar? A dollar. Who’ll make it two? Two. Now who’ll make it three? Three dollars. I have three dollars. Three dollars once. Three dollars twice. Going for three ” But no!
“Stop!” came a loud voice from the back of the crowd. Heads all around the room turned in the direction of the voice and watched as an old, gray-haired man slowly came forward. With a nod of respect to the auctioneer, the old man took the violin out of his hands and gently, lovingly wiped the dust off of it with an old handkerchief he pulled from his jacket pocket. Next he took the bow from the case and carefully tightened it until it was ready to be used.
The people in the crowd watched in puzzled amusement. Who was this crazy old man? Why did he interrupt the auction? Things were just about to wrap up. They began to fidget and whisper, impatient to end the day’s proceedings. The old man raised the violin to his chin and began to tune it, alternating between plucking the strings and then tightening them. Within a matter of moments, the violin was in tune and the old man ran the bow across the strings as if to warm them up for what was to come.
And then, with his eyes closed, the old man began to play. He played a melody so pure and sweet that those in the crowd caught their breath in wonder. Some even began to cry. The violin’s music hung in the air and filled the hearts of all who heard it with joy.
Finally the music stopped. The last note echoed through the back rooms of the auction house. Silence slowly returned to the auditorium as the gathered crowd stared in stunned amazement. The old man gave the violin one last, loving caress and then returned it gently to its old, battered case. Turning back to the crowd, he smiled and slowly walked down the isle and out the door.
After a few moments, the auctioneer cleared his throat. In a voice that was quiet and low he began again. “What am I bid for this old violin? Who’ll start the bidding? A thousand dollars? And who’ll make it two? Two, and who’ll make it three? Three thousand dollars. Three thousand once, three thousand twice, and going, and going, and gone.”
Most of the crowd began to cheer while some who had wept while the music played continued to weep. Others looked puzzled and turned to their neighbors with their questions. “We don’t understand. What just happened? It’s the same violin that it was before the old man played it. What changed?”
One of those in the crowd who had been weeping, a large man with muscular arms and dark eyes, dried his tears as he stood. The crowd quieted and looked to this man who stood in their midst. He looked around, addressing those with questions. “Don’t you see?” asked the man. “Didn’t you hear?” He paused for a moment as though he would cry again. “The violin IS what it always WAS. It was simply waiting for someone to recognize its worth. It was the touch of the Master’s hand that made the difference. None of us could see through the dust and the scratches. It took the Master’s touch to open our eyes to what this violin was capable of. Now we all see it for what it really is and our perspective will never be the same.”
The man stared down at his feet as tears began to stream down his cheek to splash on the floor. Raising his eyes once again to the crowd gathered around him, he spoke through his tears, “I would give everything I have to be that violin in the hands of the Master. If only there was someone in this world who could see through the scars and scratches of my life and who could clean off the dust and grime that I have collected over the years. If only there was someone ” The man paused as he spoke, his eyes moving toward the door in the back of the auction house where the old man had disappeared. “Maybe there is.”
With that, he made his way through the crowd out into the isle. Moving slowly at first and then quickening his pace, he walked to the back of the room. The tears that flowed from his eyes contrasted with the mysterious smile that played across his face. As he reached the door to the outside, the man turned to face the crowd. “Maybe this man is the Master, searching for instruments like me.” Turning once again, he opened the door and exited the building, moving in the same direction that the old man had taken a short time earlier.
After a few moments, several others from the crowd stood and followed him out the door.
Category: Religion & Faith |