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~
A Story of Hope





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"Ebony and Ivory"
A Story of Hope  

Allow me to share this moving, yet challenging story about two delightful old ladies that I first came across about four years ago. 

In the spring of 1983 Margaret Patrick arrived at the Southeast Senior Centre for Independent Living to begin her physical therapy. As Millie McHugh, a long-time staff member, introduced Margaret to people at the Centre, she noticed the look of pain in Margaret's eyes as she gazed at the piano. 'Is anything wrong?' asked Millie. 'No,' Margaret said softly. 'It's just that seeing a piano brings back memories. Before my stroke, music was everything to me.' Millie glanced at Margaret's useless right hand as the black woman quietly told some of the highlights of her music career. Suddenly Millie said, 'Wait right here. I'll be back in a minute.' She returned moments later, followed closely by a small, white-haired woman in thick glasses. The woman used a zimmer. 

'Margaret Patrick,' said Millie, 'meet Ruth Eisenberg.' Then she smiled. 'She too played the piano, but like you she's not been able to play since her stroke. Mrs Eisenberg has a good right hand, and you have a good left, and I have a feeling that together you two can do something wonderful.' 'Do you know Chopin's Waltz in D flat?' Ruth asked. Margaret nodded. Side by side, the two sat on the piano stool. Two healthy hands - one with long, graceful black fingers, the other with short, plump white ones - moved rhythmically across the ebony and ivory keys. 

Since that day they have sat together over the keyboard hundreds of times - Margaret's helpless right hand around Ruth's back, Ruth's helpless left hand on Margaret's knee, while Ruth's good hand plays the melody and Margaret's good hand plays the accompaniment. Their music has delighted audiences on television, in churches and schools, and at rehabilitation and senior citizen centres. 

And on the piano stool more than music has been shared by these two. For it was there, beginning with Chopin and Bach and Beethoven, that they learned they had more in common than they ever dreamed - both were great-grandmothers and widows, both had lost sons, both had much to give, but neither could give without the other. 

Sharing that piano stool, Ruth heard Margaret say, 'My music was taken away, but God gave me Ruth.' And evidently some of Margaret's faith has rubbed off on to Ruth as they've sat side by side these past five years, because Ruth is now saying, 'It was God's miracle that brought us together.' 

And that is the story of Margaret and Ruth, who now call themselves "Ebony and Ivory". 

And the lesson from this story? Each one of us is an imperfect, flawed person. Nonetheless, our talents and gifts, however small, however flawed, however fractured, must be conjoined with another's for the sake of life and love and redemption. For each one of us has a small voice, a cracked voice, but together in unison we can sing the praises of God so that they resemble the harmonies of heaven. Each one of us has a hand or foot or an eye that we can contribute to the Body of Christ as it continues its saving, serving, healing, witnessing ministry in the world today. Each one of us has a poor, imperfect gift which, when connected with others, can weave together a rich, sumptuous tapestry of God's mercy and love. Each of us has a tiny, flawed talent which, when conjoined with the tiny, flawed talents of countless others, can build up a colourful mosaic of beauty and truth and goodness - to the glory of God 

Rev Tom Cuthell, August 2004

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