The Gifts Behind Door #1408

The Gifts Behind Door #1408

It is a short, rather boring, walk from the elevator to our Chicago apartment. Twenty-three paces.  We rarely meet anyone in the hallway.  Nor is there anything particularly unusual about the tan walls and dark carpet.

It is this very ordinariness that makes what sometimes happens in the hallway so remarkable.  The first time it occurred I was rushing to bring in groceries.  I noticed the music — “what fine music,” I thought.  It was a piano sonata, probably on the radio or a recording.  Nice.

Shortly afterward, I heard the music behind the door again.  Chopin, I thought… and just then, the piano music abruptly stopped, then began again a few measures earlier. 

This wasn’t a recording at all!  There was an actual pianist — and a talented one at that — practicing in #1408.  It was my special gift, each time I walked past and listened to the artist at practice.  I suspect she didn’t know she was gifting me or any of the others of us who passed by. 

The Gifts Behind Door #1408

Then one afternoon, a violin was added to the piano.  On another occasion there was a flute.  Then I noticed a few times when the pianist wasn’t as accomplished. 

[I am both slow-witted and a bit dull, you see, because it took me weeks to understand that this was the apartment of a music teacher.  Of course, of course, there is a college of music nearby our apartment.  Students, with differing skills and who play various instruments were coming for lessons.] 

On one occasion, there was such a marvelous combination of violin and piano that I confess I stood in the hallway and luxuriated at the fine, hidden away, performance for several minutes.  So exceptional were the musical gifts being practiced behind the door they demanded my slowing down and listening. That is when I first met one of my neighbors.  A young woman.  We exchanged greetings.  She smiled, and stood with me for a moment, listening.  “Isn’t this wonderful” she said as she moved on to her apartment. 

The doorway to #1408 offers me a valuable lesson in a world chock-full of anonymous, mundane interactions.  All around — just on the other side of this anonymity, this troubling news and fear-filled analysis — there is often beauty that I otherwise tend to miss.  There is teaching and learning that is going on.  There are glorious gifts waiting to be heard, to be seen, to be understood or simply appreciated.  Sometimes the gift is offered as a solo, sometimes it is more than one who is sharing.

Then it happened, one afternoon, I met her, the pianist, the teacher. 

We were leaving our apartments at the same time.  She was almost as I had imagined her to be.  Petite, handsome, she was moving carefully to close her door, a violin case in her hand.  When I told her how I appreciated the music emanating from her apartment, she seemed surprised, a little worried.  “I hope my music isn’t bothering you,” she said.  “Bothering?” I reacted.  “Not at all!  Every time I leave the elevator on the 14th floor, I hope you will be playing.  It is the best part of returning.”

I still don’t know her name — this teacher, this beauty maker.  That will be remedied one day soon, I will make certain to learn more at the right time.  For now, even though we are still moving in anonymous worlds, I receive her gift as a reminder that my senses are often too dull to receive other offerings.

What gifts around us do we miss each day?  What gifts might we be sharing that we are unaware of at the time?  Where are there human and transcendent notes of joy and hope that are muted by the “normal.”

I find that by passing my neighbor’s apartment, even when there is no music, I am reminded to consider such questions — and I am able to approach my day with an anticipation of the gifts all around that I often otherwise miss.


(Our primary residence is in Bloomington, Indiana: we also keep an apartment in Chicago.  We love both cities and because we have a couple of grandsons in Chicago, well…)

6 thoughts on “The Gifts Behind Door #1408

  1. Dr. Amerson….there is one more gift within the gift that you wrote about emanating from 1408. You see, the story that was told reminded me of many more stories that you shared in Indianapolis, and at various other churches and places you have told stories at. Beyond the beautiful words here that you wrote, I could imagine you telling this story….changing the rate of your speech, inflection, emphasis, etc. That was music too!

    We are blessed! I could hear the music in this story at another level, remembering how eloquently you told stories of beauty, joy, hope and gratitude. In fact, I think I could hear it as well as Gene could see the world from sitting in front of me at church years ago in Indianapolis. You remember Gene, don’t you? Carol’s husband, the blind man who would volunteer to be our umpire when we played church softball. We are blessed! Thank you so much!


    1. Thanks for your kind note, Bob. I hope you and yours have had a great holiday weekend. I do remember Gene and Carol and saw them only a few months ago. They are still their marvelous selves — filled with joy and vibrancy. In fact, I have spoken of them and their joy-filled faith in a sermon or two (or three?) over the years. If I find a written copy of that sermon I will send it your way. Blessings.


  2. Thanks, Phil. Reminds me of the time I was trying to talk on the phone in the church study but the organist had pulled out about half the stops and was pedal-down. I started to apologize to the caller when he first said, “I can’t imagine how wonderful it must be to work somewhere you get to hear great music every day.” Everyday gifts.


  3. Oh, Phil, thank you for this! How lovely and beautiful – and full of wonder. Thank-full is my heart. Love and blessings to you and Elaine. Melanie


  4. Beautiful commentary and reminder. Thanks for the encouragement to pay attention and enjoy the moment.


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