“My life drastically changed when just one person took the time to             invest into me…”

“My life was changed when….” we hear this phrase all the time right? You hear it from people who took part in some great event. You hear it when someone visited a place in the world that inspired them. You can even hear this statement from people who have been faced with great tragedy in their life. The kind of “change” I am wanting to point out is something you might call “the shift” or maybe a “way point change” in someones life. A lot of times around the 402 we call it “the change moment”. These movements are so sacred and so special, that one can scarcely write them down or explain them for fear of cheapening the impact. I am talking about the moment when someone stops what they are doing to invest in themselves only, and instead takes the time to invest into you. Take a minute and think of the last person who made a profound POSITIVE impact on your life. Was it a teacher, was it your parents, was it your pastor at your church? If you would allow me a personal moment I would like to share an experience, “a change moment”, in my life that impacted me in very large way.

I was in sixth grade, attending middle school in a little town in the middle of Nebraska. Choir class was my favorite class. I really didn’t hate sports, but I just didn’t get into it.  I didn’t want anyone to know how much I loved choir because all the popular kids thought it was lame. Truth be told, I looked forward to it every day. One of the reasons I loved it so much was because of the teacher who led the class every day; Mr. Wild. I could just tell he loved his job and his passion was infectious. Mr. Wild was always very intense when it came to music. He would look at you when it was time for you to sing as though the whole world would stop moving if you wouldn’t sing your part perfectly. He demanded excellence without ever raising his voice. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to try to coral 50 some middles school students to sing the right part much less all together at the same time.

One day, Mr. Wild came to me and asked me to meet him in his office after class. I thought either I was in trouble or he was going to ask me to sing a solo on one of the songs we were practicing. It turns out Mr. Wild wanted to offer me something that no-one had ever offered me before… private voice lessons. I remember saying something like “sure…I guess” or something and going home to talk to my parents and getting the okay. He agreed to begin to meet with me on Saturday mornings for one hour. This was all new to me because I really had no plans in my head to become a “singer” or even someone who played music. I truly didn’t really have any plans at all in my 6th grader mind at that point. So just as we planned I began to meet with Mr. Wild every Saturday for voice lessons. I just couldn’t believe he was doing this…I mean what would posses a person to take the time, patience and effort to take the skill that he possessed and pass it down to me? This is exactly what he did. I respected Mr. Wild. I just marveled at his talent and skills to make music come out of his voice that would just always make the song come alive. Every time he would sing play the piano and sing it would almost seem like he would go off into another planet for a brief time.

The focus of this article is not to talk about “what” he taught me, but rather the “why” he taught me. After about 6 weeks of lessons I finally figured out the “why”. One day during our lesson, after I had just gotten done with one of our pieces I was doing for a recital coming up, he turned around on his piano stool and told me to sit down and listen. He said, “Ben…God had has gifted you with a great talent…and I think you should spend the rest of your life giving that gift back to the world…as a gift”. This statement changed me. I have had many “change moments” in my life since then, but this was one of the biggest. I am not sure if he really even knew how much that impacted me or not and maybe not even to this day. But that day the rudder on my ship was shifted away from a life of just “getting” and towards a life of “giving”. You might personally not believe in God or believe that people are “gifted”. The concept of being gifted means that there must be a “gift giver”. That might be hard for you to believe and I understand. For me personally it all  began to make sense when I figured out that talents and abilities must be learned and practiced so that you can turn around and help people with those talents and abilities. Even if it is as simple as singing a song.

“...God has gifted you with a great talent…and I think you should spend the rest of your life giving that gift back to the world…as a gift”

What I went on to do with music isn’t important. What is important is for you to ask your self what you can do in your life to use your gifts and abilities to serve others around you. What is it that you have been “gifted” with? Don’t just stop at “what” you were gifted with…but “why” do you do it. If you aren’t sure what those gifts are, let me encourage you find people who do and find out your can provide resources for them to make an impact in someones else’s life.

What I love the most about the 402 Arts Collective is that the goal of all of our amazing artist instructors and members isn’t just the skills and abilities aspect, but also the “why”. We believe that entire communities and cultures can change for the better  just by taking time to invest in these young artists one at a time. The unique aspect behind the organization is that this network of artists are poised and ready to serve many young aspiring artists in so many forms and disciplines of art. All we need is your support. This great work of “calling out the greatness” of young artists in our city is only done so by the support of our community and the charitable donations from people with the gift of giving. We have been able to serve over 150 students every week with one-on-one music and art mentorship. We would love to reach over 250 this next year.

If you or someone you know is interested in helping us make an impact please feel free to contact me directly: ben@402artscollective.org

or you can make an online tax-deductible donation here: