I teach music in an elementary school. Several years ago, my handbell choir and my mallet band were invited to perform at a local theater, part of benefit concert concert for a local charity. (Insert shameless brag here: you ought to see my 10 year olds play handbells – it’s impressive! And my mallets – wow, they are really good!) Lots of local groups came to perform. We were really excited to participate, and we also also excited to be allowed to stay and watch the entire concert!
One of my students sat next to me during the concert. He had a charming habit that I always remember: he would sit on the edge of his seat, so excited, with his hands raised to chest level and ready to go. At first, I didn’t understand his stance (can’t he just sit still, relax, stay awhile?), but my little friend quickly explained: “Mrs. Spivey, I like to start the clap! I want to be the first one to start clapping, and the whole audience will follow me!” It still makes me smile today, years later. My student was quick to celebrate the success of others – what an incredible trait to learn so young! It’s a great example and lesson for us!
For my student, the concert was that: a concert. It wasn’t a competition. He was excited to be there and share his talents, and it didn’t take anything away from him at all that others were invited to share theirs as well. His joy wasn’t diminished – in fact, it was the total opposite: he wanted to “start the clap”!
I love people who love to celebrate the gifts of others – they are a joy to be around, and super encouraging! We have some great examples in the Word of people who were quick to celebrate. How about the dad in the story of the prodigal son? When he saw his estranged son, look at his response:
“while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” Luke 15:20 ESV
He immediately had his servants prepare a party – he said to bring the best robe quickly and gave them a list of things to prepare for a celebration (Luke 15:22-24). He “started the clap”!
The prodigal’s brother had a much different response. He was upset at his father’s joy, and somehow got the idea that a celebration of his brother took something away from him. His father had to explain, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad” (Luke 15:31b-32a).
Important to notice: the prodigal’s return didn’t take a single thing away from the brother – nothing was reallocated, nothing was lost. Actually, something was added: his brother, back in his life! This was cause to celebrate, but the brother couldn’t because he made it all about himself. Maybe you know someone who has adopted this attitude, centered around self. Maybe you have been someone who has adopted this attitude, centered around self. A friend gets a raise, gets a contract, gets an inheritance, gets a new car…. what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Do you think, “Why them and not me?” or do you “start the clap”?
My student didn’t think that sharing the stage was taking anything away from us. His joy wasn’t diminished because he wasn’t the only one invited. He was happy to be there with everyone. He did his best on stage, played an important part and did well with his group. He then joined the audience and led them in “starting the clap”! His joy was genuine and contagious. He was ready to start the celebration! I love that! If a 10 year old can do it, we can do it too!
The ability to value the gifts of others without allowing a root of jealousy to form – that’s a treasure. Romans 12:15 says to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep”. Oddly enough, sometimes the weeping part is easier than the rejoicing part. I’m praying that you will find that, in this life, there is enough joy to go around. I’m praying that you will be able to recognize that the blessings of God in someone else’s life do not take away or diminish yours at all.
I’m praying that you will be the one to “start the clap” 🙂