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Written by Maryknoll Lay Missioner Caitlin Reichelderfer
When I skyped my mother to tell her that I was going to be teaching piano lessons she just started laughing. “But, you haven’t played piano in over 10 years,” she said still grinning, “and you’re not a teacher.” She was correct on both accounts. I had barely touched a piano since my senior year of high school, now a good solid 13 years ago, and by profession, I am a nurse. But a piano teacher was what one of my ministry sites was asking for, and compared to their other volunteers, I was by far the most “qualified” for the job.
Thus began my weekly piano “experiments” as I somewhat secretly called them in the beginning. However, they are experiments no longer! What started off as a semi-structured do-it-if-you-want-to style of giving lessons with three girls has turned into weekly scheduled half-hour very organized lessons with nine girls. Surprisingly, I love it.

What the piano lessons have taught me is that it does not matter what I do to connect with people, nor does it matter how well I do whatever “it” is, the most important thing is that I show up and allow myself to be open to whatever connections might come my way.
Yes, it’s true that through these lessons I teach girls how to read notes, and count, and use correct fingering. But more importantly, this weekly one-on-one time has allowed me to build solid relationship with all nine of the girls. And through these relationships I have been given the opportunity to teach them more important lessons such as how to believe in themselves and how there’s more value in the “trying” than in the “getting-it-absolutely-perfect,” and most importantly how they are worthy of love no matter what—no matter what their history has been, no matter how well they play piano, no matter how well (or poorly…) they behave, and no matter how many times they have been told in their lives that they are “bad” or “worthless.”

So maybe you’ve been waiting around for the “perfect” volunteer experience to come your way, or maybe you’ve turned down opportunities to serve because they just don’t seem to “fit your talents.” However, I truly believe that God has a knack for using us in whatever situation in which we allow ourselves to be present. And maybe, just maybe, the richest rewards will come to you in places you never even imagined were possible.

Erik Cambier
Erik Cambier served as Maryknoll lay missioner for 25 years, in Tanzania, the United States, Venezuela and El Salvador.