He was amazed at how quickly he disappeared when he first sat down on the corner. He learned quickly that it didn’t matter what he said, how well or how loud he played that old drum, no one could be bothered to do any more than glance in his general direction, and any who made accidental eye contact, looked away as quickly as possible. He assumed his presence made them uncomfortable, knowing they lived in a world that is okay with a ten-year-old being forced to survive by playing a drum on the street. Their refusal to acknowledge him was upsetting at first, but eventually he came to accept it.
But this morning is different. There is an unusual feeling in the air. The businessmen who typically hurry by in their own worlds making big money deals on their iPhones are now walking together. They are smiling. They are laughing. They are talking to one another. They are carrying gifts. And they are noticing our little drummer. They see him. They make eye contact with him. They smile at him, and even give him a coin or two.
One drops a coin at his feet and looks in his eyes. “Aren’t you coming, son?” He asks.
“Excuse me, sir? Coming where?”
“To meet the newborn king. You should come and see,” he says and turns to rejoin the crowd.
The boy drops his sticks and wonders if he is dreaming. People are noticing him, acknowledging him and even speaking to him. And now he is invited to visit a king? How is this even possible? With not a little bit of excitement he tosses his beat up old drum into a backpack, jumps up and runs to join the throng of pilgrims.
It is not until he is fully enveloped by the crowd that the dilemma of a gift occurs to him. “These men are all bringing expensive gifts, but I don’t have anything. I beg for nickels on the corner. What could I possibly offer to a future king?” He considers abandoning his journey and returning to his corner until his ten-year-old curiosity gets the better of him, and he continues with the crowd.
The people before him come to a stop, and those behind continue to press forward. They must have arrived. He is too small to see past the people, but his size does allow him to squeeze and wiggle toward the front. The closer he gets the denser the crowd grows and the harder he must push to get through. With one final lunge he bursts free of the others. No more than a few feet in front of him is the royal family themselves, but he is surprised by what he sees. They are hardly what he expected. This family is like him… poor.
For a few moments his surprise keeps him from noticing that everyone is staring at him, but as soon as he does, panic begins to fill his belly, his chest and his face. He is sure that he looks like an idiot and everyone must be wondering why such a ragamuffin is standing before them. For years he longed to be noticed, but all he wants now is to sink back into anonymity.
He looks around and sees the expensive gifts the men around him are carrying. “What could I possibly give?” He wonders. “All I have is a handful of coins, but these men have handfuls of hundred dollar bills? What do I possibly have that is worthy to give a king?”
He lifts his head preparing to apologize and slip away but is surprised when he sees the mother smiling. Her smile doesn’t mock or belittle but radiates warmth and love. Her smile reminds him of his own mother’s. He remembers the smile on her face when she gave him his drum or when she watched him play.
Hardly realizing what he is doing he pulls his drum from the backpack. Without taking his eyes off of that warm, beautiful smile he sits and begins to bang out a simple rhythm. “What am I doing?” He thinks, “I play my drum for coins not kings!” And then he looks at the baby king. “Is that a smile? Did he just smile at me?”
A boy, a little drummer boy who thinks he has nothing to give doesn’t bring a gift of gold or silver. He doesn’t offer fine foods or spices. He offers his drum. He offers his talent. He offers to the baby king himself. What do you have to offer the king this season?