One night I was downtown playing my digital piano in the park while others in our group handed out food. A homeless guy I’ll call “Ted” came and sat near me and started singing along. He was excited about the live music and said he could go get a guitar that someone had given him. He didn’t end up going to get it, but he continued to sing enthusiastically. After a few songs, Ted started to pray out loud. It was a most sincere and meaningful prayer, asking God to bless other homeless people. Then he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I’ve been waiting 13 years for someone to bring music down here so I could sing with them. This is an answer to my prayers.”
Later that night, I met Jack. I had noticed he was tapping his toe to the music while I played. I mentioned that, and he said, “Yes – I love music!” That opened the door to a wonderful conversation about lots of things, including how he has been living on the streets all his life and hasn’t seen any family members in many years. After a while, Jack said, “I want to show you a book I’ve been reading.” He went over to his backpack and took out a book by W. Mitchell entitled, It’s Not What Happens to You, It’s What You Do About It: Taking Responsibility for Change — the incredible story of how a former homeless man turned his life around and actually prospered after two terrible accidents that left him disfigured and disabled. Jack said he was about halfway through the book. Then he brought out another book. It was entitled something like “How to Make Your Dreams Come True.” I asked Jack, “What is your dream?” His answer touched me profoundly: “My dream,” said Jack, “is that nobody would have to be homeless.”
Recently, after we finished handing out the food and playing our songs, we packed up the keyboard, the sustain pedal, and the stand, and said goodbye to our homeless friends. As we started to leave, a homeless man said, “Did you forget the chair?” We turned and looked, and yes–we had forgotten to take the expensive portable piano bench. We thanked him profusely for looking out for us.
We’ve learned that our homeless friends are good people who are simply in a bad situation, down on their luck. They have dreams of a better life, not only for themselves but for others in similar circumstances. They have loving hearts and have expressed so much appreciation for the moments we spend with them. We’ve also learned that this outreach is as meaningful to us as it is to them. We look forward to each occasion and we hope to do more for them as we seek to Brighten the Corner.