Heart and Soul, and Lucy the Waitress

March 16, 2012 | 24 comments

It started because I couldn’t get the piano to open. I wanted to play a simple song on that pearly baby grand, which was preening like a supermodel in the middle of a polished hotel lobby in Mexico. But the cover hiding those 88 keys wouldn’t budge.

That’s when she stopped by, the waitress in the white blouse with her glossy black hair pulled back. She set down her serving tray, a circle balancing several wine glasses.

“Here, señora,” she said, “I help you.”

“It is ok to play this piano, yes?” I asked.

“Oh yes, señora. Yes. No trouble.”

She and I tried to pry open the key cover. It wouldn’t budge. And right about then, I was feeling like the annoying American tourist making subtle demands.

I read her name tag. Lucy. Her name means light. And she was all light, her face rapt, and her smile that spread across her face like a sunrise. And she was determined … and downright illuminating.

“It is no trouble, really, Lucy,” I shook my head, but she popped it open. I gasped, worried that we’d broken something. She threw her head back with a victorious laugh that painted that grand, columnar lobby with contagious paisley joy. I couldn’t help but laugh with her. And suddenly, we were making music there, without having played a single note. My Spanish is halting and yes, it’s true, she does know English, but together, we were most fluent in this language: joy.

Lucy was all light, saturated light, spilling over on me, and onto a cavernous, echoing room.

I sat on the piano bench.

Suddenly, an idea: “Lucy, do you play?”

Oh, no, she says. No. No. No. She said she had never played piano.

I pat the bench beside me. “Oh Lucy, won’t you play a song with me?”

She looked around the room, then back at me, and with a hand to her chest, she seemed to suggest the question: Who, me?

I patted the spot on the bench beside me. “I will teach you.”

And that smile — biggest smile I’d ever seen — just grew two inches wider. Lucy the Candle sat by me, aglow.

I told her she had just four notes to play, and I plunked them on the keyboard for her: C. A. F. G.

She learned those notes, straight away. And I began the melody, with my head keeping a metronomic beat. Side by side, two women fluent in joy, played a song called “Heart and Soul.” And we played it with heart and soul, we did.

It was one of those moments when you are overwhelmed by the beauty of the singular second in which you are living, without a care for what happens next, or who’s watching, and you just know that the only thing that matters is the making of a song. It’s a surprise of the spirit, and you don’t want it to end.

But it did end, and Lucy stood up, with her hands cupped to her mouth, surprised by what she’d done, surprised by the beauty of making beauty.

I hugged her, and thought I might just cry, all that emotion wanting to choke out real words. “Gracias,” I whispered in her ear.

Later, I went to tell her goodbye. She hugged me again. “Señora Jenny,” she said, “I was thinking just now, that you gave me the very best moment of my day. I will not forget. Thank you.”

I held her, promising that I wouldn’t forget either. “Me, too, Lucy. It was my favorite, too. You gave me my very best moment.”

A video: Lucy and I playing Heart and Soul in a hotel lobby … (RSS and Email subscribers may click here to see the one-minute video.)



by | March 16, 2012 | 24 comments


  1. David Rupert

    The connections we make can transcend language, culture, age and race. It starts with the heart of joy

  2. Denise

    Beautiful! A simple song, a simple gesture and an extraordinary moment for both you, Lucy and now for me!

  3. kd sullivan

    You create sweet moments, friend.

  4. Lyla Lindquist

    Las luces, las dos de Uds.

    Both of you. Gracias. 🙂

  5. Lyli@3dLessons4Life

    This post makes my heart happy. Thanks for sharing. It challenges me to think outside of the box about how we are to love others well.

  6. Gramma T

    That was a sweet way to start my day too. Welcome back to Iowa. Can Gramma T play the piano with you someday? Love that song reminds me of high school days before band practice. :}

  7. Jelli

    Beautiful story! Thanks for spreading joy!

  8. Dawn

    This right here? Beauty, Jennifer, right there in that dark hotel lobby, where stranger and song collide and create delight.

  9. Marla

    Never knew the name of that song!! Now it will never leave my memory. Looks like it was a highlight for all of you!!
    You help make so many memories for so many of us.

  10. Leanne


  11. Megan Willome

    Don’t you know she had been waiting her whole life for someone to teach her to play piano? Even C-F-A-G.

  12. Cindy

    Made me smile 🙂

  13. Stephanie Spencer

    Jennifer, I found your site after your post on High Calling about parenthood & success (which I loved!), and I couldn’t resist commenting on this post.

    What a beautiful picture you painted! I love the way joy becomes contagious. I’m so glad you captured video too. It would have been so easy to miss this opportunity. Thanks for doing it and for sharing it!

  14. ~Grace & Peace

    I found my way here meandering from Ann Voskamp’s then to The High Calling and eventually to this – Heart and Soul. Beautiful. By the end of the video I was smiling and crying at the same time. Thank you!

  15. Carey

    That’s awesome! Big smile on my face.

  16. Jody Collins

    Jennifer–I think BOTH of you brought light and joy to the place.

    muy bueno!

  17. Diana Trautwein

    This is my favorite story of the past few weeks – bar none. This is just plain lovely, from start to finish and the video is a fine capper. Laughter ‘painting the cavernous room with contagious paisley joy’ – oh, be still my heart. Even without the video, I can see it, I can hear it. Thank you.

  18. Lynn Mosher

    Beautiful! Such a sweet memory! So glad you shared the video. Bless you!

  19. Brandee Shafer

    I love how you penned (and pinned down!) the moment with words. And I smiled watching your happiness in the video.

  20. Jackie

    You are a blessing in so many ways. Clicked over to your video to watch this joy & then to the one of fear. Just what I needed today. Now I have “God-bumps”. 🙂

  21. Karen W

    He is the Giver of great and perfect gifts! Thank you for sharing.

  22. patricia spreng

    I couldn’t help but see the day you and Lucy meet in heaven… running up to each other, jumping up and down, hugging each other in great laughter and joy and she tells you how that day you planted joy in her heart and it set her on the path to find the true Joy Giver and she whispers “Gracias” in your ear. That is my prayer for Lucy today… that nothing will hinder her from finding the true joy giver. It is God’s plan all along… and his plans will not be thwarted.

  23. Leah Adams

    Whata wonderful moment!!! Love it!!

  24. Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

    One story luminosa! You took me back to a memory here, Jen. I’m seven years old, visiting a friend around the block. She’s playing this exact song, and teaches me to hit those same four notes. I never did learn to play, but for the longest time that made me feel like I really could! So sweet… thanks for sharing this beauty. I think you left a little of His light on Lucy…


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