“Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven – there is nothing Karen can’t play.” – Jinhua

Soup Kitchen Stories: 2014

Voices from our Community: Jinhua and Karen

Jinhua Xie is a soup kitchen guest who has been coming here for a couple of years. A native of China, Jinhua and his wife saved up to legally immigrate to New York 13 years ago. They found a home and work here and began a family — their dreams of a new life in America were starting to come true.

Karen is Jinhua’s eldest daughter. When, at six years old, she sat down at a piano and began to play without ever having had a single lesson, Jinhua saw a future for her he’d never dreamed of.

“Once Karen had seen a piece a few times she could play it — Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven — there was nothing she couldn’t play,” Jinhua says, proudly of his little girl.

Jinhua immediately enrolled Karen in piano lessons and began saving for a piano. But when a few months later he lost his job, the lessons were just one of many expenses which needed to be cut.

“I came here to eat to save money for my family and piano lessons,” Jinhua says, “I hadn’t thought about Karen playing music here.”

It was while talking to one of our counselors, that Jinhua explained that Karen was practicing at home on an electric keyboard. Our counselor immediately suggested that Karen use our grand piano at the church. Now, Karen practices here and when she’s not in school she plays for our guests and volunteers.

Guests and volunteers agree that listening to Karen play, seeing the transformation that comes over this shy little girl when she puts her hands on the keys, is an incredibly moving experience.

Now ten years old, Karen has moved onto playing Rachmaninoff. Jinhua is still seeking regular employment and relies on us for our help during this difficult time. Nonetheless, he is certain his “baby girl” will make it, that she will play Carnegie Hall one day. And we are too.