Many people ask us why we started an in-person music, arts, and enrichment program during the unprecedented year that was 2020.
Personally, our children played orchestral music at retirement communities for several years prior to 2020. But, in 2020, every place we called said no. Under zero circumstances and not with a 10-foot pole could we get near their residents to share music. So, instead we asked, “Can we just play outside their windows?”
When a friend told us about a modest, low-income nursing home community, we finally got a yes. This particular community never had a waitlist of musical performers like other retirement communities usually do. On the contrary, one resident expressed feeling like no one knew they were there.
So, we organized a small ensemble of young musicians, including three of our children, who went from window to window performing beautiful arrangements. I can remember like it was yesterday. The musicians were setting up at the first window with music stands, instruments, and sheet music. There was a loud construction crew working and the place where the musicians stood was in the blazing, 75-degree heat of May with no shade. I could barely hear myself think with the construction going on behind us. There was no way the nursing home residents would be able to hear them play. However, as the young musicians played, the construction foreman stopped his crew from working so they could all listen. It became so quiet except for the sweet sound of young musicians playing as if they were in a concert hall before a multitude of listeners. But, for them, they were playing for an audience of one. After nearly 10 minutes and one entire set, a roaring round of applause came from nearly 50 feet away as the construction crew became an unexpected audience. The young musicians moved from window to window carrying their various instruments and music stands with smiles on their faces and not a single complaint from their mouths. We observed the nursing home residents clapping at the end of each set and thanking the musicians through slightly opened windows.
As we approached the last window and final set of the outdoor concert, we were met by the facility director who was all smiles as he recounted the atmosphere inside. “It’s buzzing in there,” he told us. He went on to tell us the residents inside the building were dancing and moving their feet to the music and singing as if they no longer had dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other progressive forms of memory loss. The director told us once the musicians stopped playing, the residents went back to their normal functions and behavior. They’d never had such wonderful music played for their residents (his words, not ours).
The gift of music was able to fuel expressions of joy through individuals that were mentally isolated due to their medical condition and physically isolated due to politics. It was emotional for us to know that our children were able to share God’s wonders through their music-playing and generosity and we saw the blessing reach further than we imagined.
There’s an English proverb, “There’s no time like the present,” and we knew it when we started Wonder in 2020 and it’s true for what we’re embarking on today. Because in times of uncertainty and division, it’s even more vital we fill our homes and communities with faith, creativity, and hope. It’s equally crucial we equip our young people with the skills, character, and mindset to honor the generation before them and teach the generation after them.
On August 1st, 2020, Wonder was born and Psalms 71:17-18 became our motto. It reads: “God, You have taught me from my youth. Until now, I have declared Your wonders. Yes, even when I am old and gray-haired, God, don’t forsake me, until I have declared Your strength to the next generation, Your might to everyone who is to come.”