I hid in the bathroom stall, rereading the words on my screen. I reread them again. And again. No way, I whispered under my breath. I typed a response as quickly as I could.
“Oh my gosh that sounds absolutely incredible. That would be so amazing if it could happen…sorry if my responses are super delayed. I’m a leader at a weekend camp for high school students all weekend and I can only sneak on my phone when I’m hiding in the bathroom stall. Lol.” I hit send, returned my phone to my pocket, and attempted to pretend like nothing had happened.
For this episode of Picking Poppies, I want to talk about giving. I want to talk about this not only because it is Christmas time, but also because I was recently able to witness one of the most beautiful acts of giving, and this story paints such a beautiful picture of everything that Picking Poppies strives to stand for.
Several weeks ago, a student was in my classroom after school, and we were chatting about Christmas music. His favorite song was the same as mine, Mary Did You Know, and he said his favorite instrument was the violin. He shared about how his mom had played the violin, but she had stopped when she was 15 due to life circumstances. This student has been raised by his grandparents, but he shared how he was saving his money to buy a $67 violin from Amazon. He wanted to learn to play as a gift to his mom.
The events that had to take place for the rest of this story to unfold are completely crazy. They should have been impossible. None of this should have been able to take place.
Over the summer, I had been reading Backpacker Magazine, and seen a tiny article about new trail scouts. One was from the Seattle area, so I looked her up and followed her on Instagram. I found out she had a Facebook group for hiking (Toward the Mountain Top Inch by Inch), so I joined it. In September they had their first meetup, and despite my decision not to go (I didn’t know anyone), I found myself responding to an offer to carpool from the Olympia area, and suddenly I was in a car with two strangers, on my way to a meetup I still wasn’t sure I wanted to go to. And I met a group of some of the most incredible human beings I’ve ever gotten to know. And that is when I met Anastasia Allison, the trail scout and leader of the Facebook group.
After the meetup, we continued to interact through various forms of social media, and she had just begun doing something called Violin Grams. This was a free service she offered on her website, where you could nominate someone to receive a Violin Gram, and she would create a video where she plays the song and does a little shout-out to that person. They are SO fun, and I thought it would be really fun to nominate this student for a Violin Gram.
A Violin Gram would have been a huge win. It would have meant the world to him. It would have spread some Christmas joy, and fed his soul just a little. It would have shown him that there are people who care.
Never in a million years did I expect how Anastasia would reply to my Violin Gram request.
So, there I was, hiding in a bathroom stall, reading Anastasia’s response.
“I have a billion ideas about this…donations…purchase his violin…drive down to your school, play the song for him in person and give him the violin…”
By the next day, she had created a GoFundMe, posted a live video sharing the story of why we were raising money to purchase a violin, and of course, she played Mary Did You Know on her violin.
Within 20 hours the violin was fully funded, by people who had never even met this student. Within 48 hours the violin had been purchased, and a date was set for her to come to our school to present the violin.
The final days leading up to Anastasia driving all the way to Onalaska High School were filled with infinite ideas as to how to present the violin. And then, all of the sudden, Anastasia was in front of a room of 200 students, all piled into the band room, playing her violin and sharing her story of how on earth she ended up at Onalaska High School.
Anastasia has a very inspiring story that is relatable to almost every single human being. She shared her heart, and played her violin. And not a single student had a clue how that story was going to end.
Part of what Anastasia shared, was how she implemented three things into her daily life that drastically changed her mindset, which in turn changed her life.
- Meditation – she would focus on nothing but her breathing, which allowed her not to focus on anything negative.
- Gratitude – she learned to truly be grateful for the things she had in her life, even though her life wasn’t perfect.
- Giving – it didn’t have to be monetary. Compliments, acts of service, kind words. She found power in giving.
And through her decision to give every day, she decided to give away these Violin Grams. She explained the Violin Grams to the students, and said that a teacher had nominated a student to receive one.
“Dylon, this is for you.”
The biggest smile spread across his face. He was glowing. As she finished playing Mary Did You Know, she signaled him to come up to the stage with her, and said the words, “but the story isn’t even over yet.”
If the story had ended here, everyone would have walked away with a full and happy heart, and that student would have remained absolutely thrilled that he receive an in-person violin gram. But instead of ending the story there, due to the goodness in humanity, the incredible gift of kindness that so many gave without question, the story had the best, most incredible ending anyone in that room could have possibly asked for.
Anastasia explained that the Violin Gram had actually started a week ago. She explained how so many people heard his story and decided to come along side him and help him pursue his desire to play the violin. And then the magic words, “a whole bunch of people decided to buy a violin for Dylon.”
She handed the beautiful instrument to Dylon, who stood there in disbelief, and then wrapped her in an enormous hug.
There was applause.
There were many tears.
And there was so much joy.
This situation should never have been possible. There was too much chance. Too many circumstances that could have drastically altered the outcome. Too many variables that could have halted or even completely prevented any of this from taking place.
A decision to focus on giving created a ripple effect that will continue to spread in a way that is impossible to fully see the entirety of the outcome.
A decision to give brought immense joy.
A decision to give allowed others to have the opportunity to give.
You never know the extent to which your decisions will impact the entire universe. I fully realize how ridiculous and cheesy that sounds, but I mean every single word.
Dylon might not change the world through playing the violin (but he could!). He might not even like playing the violin. And that is okay. Because I know, with every ounce of my being, that Dylon saw kindness and goodness in the world. I know that Dylon felt loved and cared for. And I know that he will be able to look back on that moment for the rest of his life and be able to say, “goodness exists.” And that is powerful beyond comprehension.
For this month’s Picking Poppies (choosing love and kindness), I want to encourage you to focus on giving.
Thanks, Friends, and Merry Christmas.