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Mildred Hondorf


At the prodding of my friends, I am writing this story. My name is
Mildred Hondorf.

I am a former elementary school music teacher from DeMoines, Iowa.
I've always supplemented my income by teaching piano lessons-something
I've done for over 30 years.

Over the years I found that children have many levels of musical ability.
I've never had the pleasure of having a protégé though I have taught some talented students.
However I've also had my share of what I call "musically challenged" pupils.

One such student was Robby.

Robby was 11 years old when his mother (a single mom) dropped him off for
his first piano lesson. I prefer that students (especially boys!) begin at
an earlier age, which I explained to Robby. But Robby said that it had
always been his mother's dream to hear him play the piano. So I took him as
a student.

Well, Robby began with his piano lessons and from the beginning I thought
it was a hopeless endeavor. As much as Robby tried, he lacked the sense of
tone and basic rhythm needed to excel. But he dutifully reviewed his
scales and some elementary pieces that I require all my students to learn.

Over the months he tried and tried while I listened and cringed and tried
to encourage him. At the end of each weekly lesson he'd always say, "My
mom's going to hear me play some day." But it seemed hopeless. He just did
not have any inborn ability.

I only knew his mother from a distance as she dropped Robby off or waited
in her aged car to pick him up. She always waved and smiled but never
stopped in. Then one day Robby stopped coming to our lessons.
I thought about calling him but assume because of his lack of ability, that
he had decided to pursue something else. I also was glad that he stopped
coming. He was a bad advertisement for my teaching!

Several weeks later I mailed to the student's homes a flyer on the upcoming
recital. To my surprise Robby (who received a flyer) asked me if he could

be in the recital. I told him that the recital was for current pupils and
because he had dropped out he really did not qualify. He said that his mother had been
sick and unable to take him to piano lessons but he was still
practicing." Miss Hondorf...I've just got to play!" he insisted.

I don't know what led me to allow him to play in the recital. Maybe it was
his persistence or maybe it was something inside of me saying that it would
be all right. The night for the recital came. The high school gymnasium was
packed with parents, friends and relatives.

I put Robby up last in the program before I was to come up and thank all
the students and play a finishing piece. I thought that any damage he would
do would come at the end of the program and I could always salvage his poor
performance through my "curtain closer."

Well the recital went off without a hitch. The students had been practicing
and it showed. Then Robby came up on stage. His clothes were wrinkled and
his hair looked like he'd run an eggbeater through
it. "Why didn't he dress up like the other students?" I thought. "Why
didn't his mother at least make him comb his hair for this special night?"

Robby pulled out the piano bench and he began. I was surprised when he
announced that he had chosen Mozart's Concerto #21 in C Major. I was not
prepared for what I heard next. His fingers were light on the keys, they
even danced nimbly on the ivories. He went from pianissimo to
fortissimo...from allegro to virtuoso.

His suspended chords that Mozart demands were magnificent! Never had I
heard Mozart played so well by people his age. After six and a half minutes
he ended in a grand crescendo and everyone was on their feet in wild

Overcome and in tears I ran up on stage and put my arms around Robby in joy.

"I've never heard you play like that Robby! How'd you do it?" Through the
microphone Robby explained: "Well Miss Hondorf...remember I told you my mom
was sick? Well actually she had cancer and passed away this morning. And

she was born deaf so tonight was the first time she ever heard me play. I
wanted to make it special."

There wasn't a dry eye in the house that evening. As the people from Social
Services led Robby from the stage to be placed into foster care, I noticed
that even their eyes were red and puffy and I thought to
myself how much richer my life had been for taking Robby as my pupil. No,
I've never had a protégé but that night I became a protégé...of Robby's.

He was the teacher and I was the pupil. For it is he that taught me the
meaning of perseverance and love and believing in yourself and maybe even
taking a chance in someone and you don't know why.

This is especially meaningful to me since after serving in Desert Storm,
Robby was killed in the senseless bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal
Building in Oklahoma City in April of 1995, where he was
reportedly....playing the piano.

And now, a footnote to the story. If you are thinking about forwarding this
message, you are probably thinking about which people on your address list
aren't the "appropriate" ones to receive this type of message. The person
who sent this to you believes that we can all make a difference. We all
have thousands of opportunities a day to help realize God's plan. So many
seemingly trivial interactions between two people present us with a choice:

Do we pass along a spark of the Divine? Or do we pass up that opportunity
and leave the world a bit colder in the process?