As songwriters, we are sometimes asked “Who inspires you?” “Who are some of your favorite composers?” “Who do you listen to?” “If you were stranded on a desert island and could only pick one…” but I digress.
The flip side of the who-inspires-you coin asks the inverse question: “Whom do you inspire?”
Not exactly something you typically wake up in the morning and say, “I think I’ll go out and inspire somebody today,” but when you notice it happening, it’s a feeling both humbling and deeply gratifying.
For example, I was back on the east coast a couple weeks ago visiting with family in the DC suburbs where I’m “Uncle Rick” to my neice and three nephews.
My youngest nephew, Wesley, recently expressed a tentative interest in learning to play the guitar. This was something of a first in his otherwise sports-focused household. (If I were one to brag, I might mention that the kids all swim and play soccer, baseball and such, and my niece has experienced some local fame in recent years by making it onto the Olympic prep team for luge. I mention this because, well, it’s timely and I’m more likely to get away with it here than in future postings.)
Wes’ mom, Lynda, went to a toy store and bought him a toy guitar but, when she got it home, nobody knew what to actually do with it. Uncle Rick lives in California and doesn’t visit too often, so not much help there. Soon the toy guitar was woefully out of tune and the D string broke while Wes and his brothers were monkeying around.
And so the guitar was cast aside to join a pile of miscellaneous Matchbox cars and video games.
On the last day of my visit, Lynda mentioned Wes’ new interest in music, of which I was previously unaware. I offered a few words of encouragement, and he went straight to the toy pile to bring me the guitar. I tuned it up sans the D string and began strumming and picking out a simple tune. The whole household got quiet as folks stopped their activities to congregate in the living room to listen.
As I looked over at Wes, I saw a light in his eyes that I recognized and remembered from my own childhood, when a fancy guitar lick could make me spontaneously laugh out loud. Since those early days, I’ve been influenced and inspired by too many musicians and songwriters to list.
But as the “circle be unbroken” it feels incredibly wonderful to be the source of a bit of precious inspiration… passed one to another… wherever that may lead.