Josephine's Coins

3:35 PM Marcellino DAmbrosio 1 Comments

            As I set out in my thesis, this blog is going to be about bringing out the child within us that our society constantly suppresses. I’m sure that my thoughts and imagination will take us elsewhere on our travels through blogland, but I recently was touched by a child and wanted to share the experience with you. I think this story really embodies so much of what I want to communicate in this blog, so it is a fitting place to start. This is the story of Josephine’s coins, and the glee of giving.
            Last week I was lucky enough to be asked to play at the open mic night at the pub. I haven’t played much recently, so before I was scheduled to go on, I walked outside to the area in front of the bean, and sat down on the edge of the fountain to practice. I twisted the tuning knobs with delicate precision, closed my eyes, and began to pluck out the chords to my newest song “20 Dollar Bills.” I was halfway through the first verse when I heard the following:
            Ping           pang    ring
                                                         ring shing shing

I immediately stopped playing, looked down and saw a quarter on the ground at my feet. Of course I looked up at the windows and balconies on the piazza above me, but there was no one around at all! I didn’t even hear so much as hear a chuckle. So I picked up my guitar again and strummed the melody. As soon as I began to sing, I heard it again.
            pang Pang shing
                                    Ring shing
                                                     Ring shing shck

Another quarter dropped at my feet.
            I kept playing.

                        Ping Ping ping Pang Shin shang
                                    Shing ring ringaring
                                                Shing ringaring shing schk ring shkk

Dimes, quarters and nickels started to fall all around me, and I still couldn’t hear or see anyone on the balconies above. There weren’t even any lights on in the windows.  I played on as coins dropped all around me, and finally, between the “pings” and the twinkling sounds of silver dropping to the cobblestone, I heard a faint giggle. It was the delighted chuckle of a little girl, who very much wanted to be caught. I saw her little fingers dart out of a small tear in the screen of her window and toss out a handful of change:

            ping Chang chiing shinga ching
                        Ring ringping pangashing shing ching shinga
                                                Shck ping shk shick ping singring 
                                                            Ring     shing shk ring      ring   shk

I laughed with her, delighted at her playfulness, and so I sang her a song, and as I sang, she dropped coins, attempting to time it so that the coins bounced in rhythm with me. She made a game out of the music, and giggled every second. When it as my time to go on, I thanked her, gathered the change—she ensured that I did not miss a coin—and counted it all. She had thrown down four dollars and thirty seven cents in pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. With a brand new joy, I walked in to play for the audience at the pub. I was given my free Godfather (Scotch and Ammaretto, my fave), and they applauded after I was finished. I found out later that the girl was Josephine Dix, the daughter of the owner, a troublemaker if there ever was one. She was three years old and she was already tearing holes in screens to throw things out at people. I have to say, I cannot wait until the day—to the dismay of her parents and all of the Ave Maria community—she discovers water balloons. It will probably be the greatest discovery of her childhood.

            I have to tell you, that I audience I had in Josephine, that moment that I stood, serenading a small child from below her window while she giggle and threw coins from a tear in her screen, was one of the most memorable shows I’ve ever played. Even though my drink was worth well more than $4.37, and the audience was far bigger in the pub, the highlight of the evening was Josephine.
            This got me thinking about charity and almsgiving. Whether Josephine went into her fathers wallet or smashed her own piggy bank in order to give me that moment, the gift she gave me was in the giving. There is nothing special or noteworthy about dropping a couple Washingtons and a Lincoln in the guitar case of a street performer. What would he do, I wonder, if you were to walk across the street to the hotdog vendor, buy him a chili cheese dog and drop it in his case (carefully of course). Or what if you dropped in an invitation to your house for dinner? Charity is most appreciated and most striking when it is creative.
            Saint Nicholas’ great charity is not remembered for the magnitude of what he gave, but because of how he gave it. There is one famous story of a man who was in debt to his landlord. His landlord threatened to take the man’s three daughters and sell them into prostitution to reconcile his debt. St. Nicholas, wanting to give an anonymous gift, dropped three bags of gold down the man’s chimney in the middle of the night. I can’t know exactly what that man’s morning must have been like, but I’d like to think it probably went something like this:

Imagine waking up, walking blearily eyed to the sink to slap some water on your face. You step on a coin.  You are confused, and that state of morning annoyance, you bend down to peal it off your bear skin, only to find several more coins littering your path. Your eyes follow the trail of gold as it glimmers in the light of a new day, all over the tile. Gold has spilled out over the ashes of your fireplace, and “pinged” and bounced and rolled into every, nook, and crack and hole of your life.

That must have been a powerful surprise. I can’t imagine “thank you” would have been quite enough to express the feeling.

But thank you, none the less, Josephine, for your joy, your charity, and your delight. I hope to emulate your kindness and adventurous spirit!


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1 comment:

  1. (Wiping away tears and laughing as the story unfolded and I realized just who it was about)

    Just this morning I found Josie's broken (and empty) piggy bank, a stocking gift from Santa. The green pig had a 'lid' on the bottom but she'd found another way to free the coins. So I was in their room cleaning up the very last of the Christmas river of puzzle pieces, Barbie clothes, and paper dolls, even to the very last corner under the 'kitchen'. Even after all the tiny game pieces, feathers and everything else I collected, there wasn't more that 11 cents. I let the mystery go, and made a note on my list to fix the screen.

    We teach our girls the right thing to do when they spot an open guitar case (besides climb inside it), and I have in my past, carefully placed good food at the feet of performers working outside my (or my bosses') restaurant. Music is priceless.

    Thanks for reminding me that my rascal is a delight, and that the most incredible gifts are the ones you couldn't have imagined until they're in your arms!