The sun had withdrawn behind the horizon, loosening its grip on the city, letting it begin to slip once more beneath the cool dark waves of eventide. Still visible in the westerly sky, a fleeting pink afterglow, the only remnant of its former majesty. Witnesses to it all, we watched and waited.
We were on the south bank of the river Thames looking across to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben at Westminster. The air was moist and chilly, partly because of our proximity to the river, mostly because this is London we’re talking about after all. We were waiting to see the Palace of Westminster (as the houses of parliament are officially called) lit up at night. As residents of the U.K. at the time, and regular visitors to the city, we had seen it before but like any thing of beauty, it’s still a sight to behold. Loitering around the south bank, we walked up river as far as Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Yet the setting sun and gathering darkness had coaxed us back towards Westminster. Then slowly, as if obeying some unseen conductor, banks of lights began to blaze across the southern facade of the palace culminating with the clock tower and the face of Big Ben itself. Repeating an old tradition, Westminster was once again illuminated and from its riverside perch it was transformed by the waters into two palaces.
At some point I became aware of the strains of beautiful music carried on the night air. The sounds were unlike those produced through audio speakers; there was a majesty about them, as if listening to a mighty waterfall from a great distance – faint yet powerful. My wife and I guessed there must be some symphony concert going on nearby. The instrumental only enhanced the picturesque cityscape around us, so we lingered and listened. The occasional evening jogger or constable passed by but for the most part we were left alone in this beautiful little slice of London. During a visit to this same spot the year prior, I had been approached for money by a woman who had pegged me for a Canadian (at least she had the North American part right) and had even struck up a brief conversation with a street sweeper who had kindly given me an impromptu lesson on how to carry a knife (in England most types of knives are illegal to carry). But on this night there were no such interchanges with the locals, just us and the romantic notes of the symphony in the distance. We kept craning our necks to look around, trying to figure out where this amazing music was coming from but without success.
As it grew later we began to make our way towards a subway station on the Jubilee line to catch the ‘tube’ to the ‘car park’ and drive home. As we approached a pedestrian tunnel that ran under the Westminster Bridge the music that had been serenading us became noticeably louder and as we entered the tunnel we discovered, to our amazement, the source of the powerful sounds we had been enjoying. Two young men, a cellist and a violinist, were playing with their instrument cases opened to passers-by. I never would have guessed that the magnificent sounds we had been enjoying were being produced by exactly two people!
The young men had cleverly setup inside the concrete tunnel to use the natural acoustics to maximize – amplify their natural sound. I assure you – it worked. We joined a small audience that had gathered under this bridge to watch and listen. No royal symphony hall, no grand ballroom with velvet draperies and crystalline chandeliers. Just a dirty, worn concrete tunnel lit with a harsh yellow light. Yet to those of us who stood there that evening, breathing in the sweet notes, it was a little slice of splendor. Walking away, I was struck by the incredible sounds that could be produced by just two people with the right amplification.
Many of us want to make a positive impact of some sort. In whatever field or endeavor, we want to know that our lives have purpose and influence. One of the great challenges for leaders is how to increase or amplify their impact. Some time ago, I came across an article about Google. The company’s chief merger & acquisitions officer was discussing the challenge of keeping good talent around from the companies they acquire. One of his pitches to potential acquisitions is that they’ll make a bigger impact on the world at Google than they could as an independent startup. “It’s not financial retentions” that keep entrepreneurs at Google, he said. “They are motivated to change the world.”
If you’re a parent of young children, your impact on changing the world begins with those little eyes looking up at you every day. We have the incredible opportunity to speak life into the next generation. Regardless of your social or economic status, all of us have a certain ‘sphere of influence’. This is our opportunity to make a difference and brighten the corner of the world where we are at. Christians have access to the greatest life ‘amplifier’ ever known.
Hear the lesson of the humble street musicians; they used that gritty foot tunnel as a force multiplier to amplify their music. Regardless of how modest or mundane our lives may seem at times, we can experience a divine amplification that magnifies our life, purpose and influence beyond what it ever could be on its own.