The Old Violin

Frank M. Juelich

The old man had come to the farm asking for a night’s stay in the barn; he had no place to go and nobody to care for him. The farmer, in pity, offered him a room in the house and an offer to stay with them for as long as he wanted; room and board were free. The old man gratefully accepted and helped wherever it was needed, which was not often. The rest of the time he spent dozing in a wicker chair under a tree or exploring the farm and the various farm buildings.  

One day he came across an old shed leaning askew on its foundation; it certainly looked dilapidated and abandoned. The door squeaked in protest as he pried it open as if reluctant to reveal what secrets lay behind it. He peered inside. The semi darkness was crisscrossed by beams of sunlight that found their way through holes in the planks constituting the walls. He waited for his eyes to adjust to the gloom before making the first few tentative steps inside. 

What once had been a respectable storeroom had now turned into a junk room. Strewn about were disused pieces of old furniture, wheel-less cycles, discarded toys and a host of other things mixed with old newspapers, and old magazines. The whole was liberally covered with a fine brown dust that became airborne at the slightest breath of air. On walls and ceiling an army of spiders had made their abodes in curtains of cobwebs.  

The refuse of a life-time the old man mumbled. A tear stole down his cheek as he reflected, I do not have even that much to show for my life. 

He pushed the thought away and kept peering into the gloomy darkness. There, hardly recognizable as such, lay an old violin in an open case. Like the rest of the inventory he smiled at the word it was covered with dirt, dust and cobwebs. 

Gingerly, fearing a fall, he made his way to the corner and with effort retrieved the violin and, after a second effort, the case. In the sunlight it looked even worse than in the gloom of the old shed.  

The farmer who came by smiled. It used to be mine when I was a kid. Well, it had its day but now is ready for the fire. It will never play again!  

At first glance the old man tended to agree. Then the thought came, Why not at least clean it? It will give me something to do. 

He gently carried his treasure to a big tree, found the old wicker chair and, armed with a cloth and brushes, set about to clean the case first; he could do nothing about the rusted hinges and hasp, but the rest look presentable.

Then he turned his attention to the violin.  

With a gentleness and infinite care that betrayed a lover’s heart, he removed the broken strings; then began to wipe the dust off the violin with a rag.  

The farm workers, who walked by on their way to various jobs, shook their head and repeatedly told him, it will make no sound except to scare the chickens.

Even the farmer in kindness suggested to let it go, It is beyond repair. It will never again make music.  

The old man acknowledged their advice with a smile but continued his work. 

The job was painstakingly slow. 

Sometimes, holding in his hand a little brush to get dust out of corners inaccessible to his fingers, he would fall asleep.  

At one time, falling into a daydream, he remembered his first attempts at playing the violin. He noticed, during his practice, his father would often go out and sit on the balcony. One day he asked him, Daddy, why are you always walking out on the balcony when I play? Well, replied his father with a grin, I do not want people to think I am beating your mother. He smiled at the memory wondering whether his first attempt with this violin would produce the same reaction in the farmer, or really scare the chickens. 

The cleaning job done, he had persuaded the farmer to buy new strings and a new bow. Now the violin looked clean and polished, as good as it would ever be. Then the day came when nothing more could be done.  

His heart beat in anticipation when, with infinite care, he put it to his chin and made the first tentative strokes and then he played.  

The workers stopped and listened in amazement and wonder; the farmer’s wife stood transfixed at the window; some people smiled, others had tears in their eyes. Something new and beautiful had entered their lives. The old man, unaware of his surroundings played on.

The transformed violin was transforming his world the farm and its people. 

There are many old violins lying about - men and women the world and the church discarded, pronounced as useless, beyond repair and redemption. Then God, with infinite care and love begins the process of cleaning and renewal and proves men’s verdict wrong. Nobody is beyond His ability to restore.  

Then these transformed instruments, rescued from the junk rooms, junkyards and attics of the world produce music that makes people look up again in wonder and awe at their God the God who through them is transforming their world.