Your Thing, Your Wow

I play spoons (clickity, clackity). In this picture you can see me in the red shirt playing with a street band in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

You can easily say that spoons are my thing. But they are also my wow. Today, I’d like to talk about how you might transform your “thing” into your “wow.”

My whole family and my whole extended family would cheerfully add, “Oh, yeah, he plays spoons too.” It’s been that way for over 40 years now.

I’ve played spoons in hotels, bars, and restaurants from Los Angeles to Philadelphia and Minneapolis to New Orleans. Sometimes I surprise people with a thing I call the “national anthem.” Sometimes I do the “Happy Birthday Cha Cha Cha.” When I step up to play with an existing musical group, I just spoon along with whatever they’re doing. But I always have fun and for the most part, folks around me have fun, too. Fun, you see, is the first part of wow.

Let me give you one example. I walked up to a musician in a restaurant near Birmingham. As he set up his gear I said, “Mind of I join in for a song or two?” At that point he says, “Are you any good?” I said casually, “The best spoon player you’ve ever heard.” We began the little dance of will he let me join in or not. He relented and after the second song I left to go back to my table. He said, “Any time you want to come back, just step on up. Great sound.” “Yahoo!,” says me. I’m in!

But another equally fun part happened as I was returning to my table. A mother in the crowd asked me to come over and give her kids a spoon lesson. Bonus! That doesn’t happen often, but it usually involves parents and kids.

What is your thing? Does your family know it? I think the first clue that your thing is a wow is in the fact that you like doing it. It is fun. And many around you recognize that you like the activity and you’re happy doing it.

Some people are not so fortunate. These souls are known for something they cannot now get out of. I have a friend who makes ships in a bottle. Everybody knows that. He’s quite good at it too. But he is not having fun at it any longer.

Fun, then, is the first step to wow. My family would quickly agree that Dad has fun playing the spoons. How is your thing doing on the wow scale? Are you having fun with it?

I also play with a couple of bands. Several musicians I’ve played with for 40 years. The folks in these bands are my friends. We’ve taken trips together. We’ve been in each others’ homes and eaten at each others’ tables. Together we’ve played for countless church audiences, sick folks in hospital or home bound, restaurants, parks—a whole host of venues.

It is not an accident that people say these musicians “play” together. If they are doing it right, the whole sounds better than the sum of its parts. Getting to that part, the part where we “play” involves skill and a lot of cooperative effort. We “make” music.

If your thing can become play, you are well on your way to wow. I can’t overemphasize the value of friendship or of “making” things together with others.

The groups I play with bring a lot of joy. But some venues are really special. One group I’m with plays in nursing homes. “Come to the activity room, the band is here.” We play from a song book of old hymns and gospel music. Nearly everybody in the facility knows the songs. They join in as they are able.

We usually play once per month in the same three nursing homes. But COVID 19 has a nasty habit of derailing good intentions. Most of our Year 10 performances in nursing homes were halted due to the pandemic, but we still have had some stalwart customers at one of those nursing homes. As long as the weather held out and they, themselves, didn’t get quarantined, we played outside once per month for them.

Making a difference. That’s the third part of wow.

I remember one experience from long ago. A couple brought Mom into the activities room. Mom was carrying a baby doll as she often does. About half way through the hour, Mom closed her eyes and starting singing with the music. Daughter was so surprised and delighted she got her phone out and took pictures. These days Mom isn’t present with her family much; her brain has taken shelter behind a wall of forgetfulness. But sometimes, when the music comes out, Mom sings an encore.

Now, I tell you what. I’ve hit the jackpot. I’ve found something I love to do. I’ve found friends to do it with. And together we make a positive difference in other people’s lives. I challenge you to meet that test. I call it the WOW test.

Find something you like. Find some friends to do it with. And watch for how you can make a difference in other people’s lives. Your thing can become your wow.

I know it happens. I’ve seen grandmothers in churches help teenagers learn to knit so they can make baby blankets for new mothers leaving a hospital. I know of a men’s group that makes hand-powered bikes for Africans who’ve lost their legs. I know fraternities that enjoy cooking a homeless meal once a month.

Wow. What difference can you make by doing your thing?

Ed Zinkiewicz

…the retired guy

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