As some may or may not know, I love music, always have, and I have been told that I am a gifted musician. I have performed in multiple musical groups, from acapella quartets to chamber chorales, from duets in church, to very large scale concerts in a band. Well, I have had some very awesome experiences due to that, from listening to Handel’s Messiah Hallelujah Chorus sung by the Northwestern Choir and Orchestra, to a day like the other day. Part of my musical love is a belief that the world has a song, there is a rhythm that pulses in all of us, what is your heartbeat? A rhythm, when do we cease to exist? When that rhythm stops, and while that rhythm rolls the world has a song that just swirls around us, and when we get lucky enough, we get to harmonize with it. Transcending everything and anything, and just being in the moment of God’s song.
I had wandered into Katie’s office, just to say hey. Katie is one of the folks down there that helps a lot of these folks into housing, she has been able to work with and house people who everyone else has given up on, one in particular, has multiple multiple issues, it was said that he would forever wander the streets and would never be housed, well, he just hit the 18th month of living in his apartment. She has an awesome heart for the ‘impossible ones’, and is quick to show that through faith and love that nothing is impossible. That’s the tragic part of a lot of this, most of these folks, that’s all they need, someone to love them as a brother or sister, or even child.
So, I stepped into Katie’s office, we talked about the center, plans for it, things going on around town, who needed what for what reason. Then a gentleman came in to talk to her. I have had the privilege to talk to him on a few occasions, his name is Tawa, he is from the Caribbean , he came to the US to find a better life. He is a regal looking man when you take the time to notice, he is average stature, very dark skinned, he keeps his hair up under a rasta style hat, which when you meet and talk to him, you realizes is the only type of hat you could ever picture him in. He is a cook, and from how he talks about cooking, and me loving food, he knows his stuff, but there is no work. He smiles a lot , I thought that was very intriguing, because in that place, smiles are few and far between. The magic behind his smile , is his love for God and music. He carries around a homemade drum, now in that right, it is a thing of beauty, carved from mahogany, with a goatskin top. He is constantly adjusting and tuning it to keep it’s sound perfect.
At Katie’s request he started playing. He played a song from his homeland and then a few more contemporary pieces, that all of you would recognize. Actually many of you may have seen Tawa play before and not known it, but I will tell you why some other time. As he was playing, I found myself getting lost in the music, singing along, and just enjoying the moment. One of the other guys Tony had been on the edge of the office for a little while, and he just started singing along, so there we were just living in the moment.
Then Katie asked Tony to play the office guitar, and he happily obliged. He started playing a blues riff, I could tell he was good, sometimes you can just spot it. As he played he said, ‘this is a song I have been writing, I just finally have started matching the lyrics to the music that goes through my head.’ ,and then he started singing. He has a great smoky bluesy voice, and his song, well, it was great, it was something that I could close my eyes and hear on the radio, and I’m not just saying that, it’s really good. I will not tell you the title of the song or the chorus, but I do sing that catchy tune through my head a lot. As he wrapped up, we applauded, and I rose to leave the room. Tony, stopped me, ‘you’re a musician, right?’. I quickly replied, ‘yeah, I used to be.’ ‘aw, come on man, you gotta play something.’’ He quickly fired back.
I haven’t played in public for 3 years. I have performed on stage in a duet last Easter , for church, but the last time I was on stage playing guitar for an audience was during my brother Paul’s benefit when he had passed, and that was only because his mother said that he had bragged to her about being a fan of mine and how good friends we had become, and he would want me to do it. So for Paul, I saddled up, and was moved beyond words when almost all of our old band, one by one, joined me on stage, and using the house instruments we played some of Paul’s favorite tunes.
Either or, I had not played for anyone other than my closest friends and family since then, and that’s how I was most comfortable, but for some reason, I said, ‘ok’. I haven’t actually played a guitar in a while. I took the guitar from him. I don’t know what it is about acoustic guitars, when one get’s put in my hand I can just feel it, I can feel the songs stir in me. I started to play, finger picked some classical stuff that I have known like that back of my hand since I was 15 or so, and then I felt it, the song I wanted to sing. I kicked into it. It’s a song that I have sung to Andre since he was born as one of his lullabies’, an old school rock ballad of sorts, and then it happened. Tawa started lightly tapping out this rhythm, that was just perfect, using his hands to create this orchestra of differing beats to accompany me, and as he did that, Tony started harmonizing and lightly creating a second rhythm with his surroundings. As we went into the second chorus, it hit, 3 men from completely separate walks of life, singing and playing a song that only one of us knew, and yet there we were, in harmony with each other. For that moment in time, the shelter melted away, and there was nothing there, but the song. Just music, and for me, a moment where there was nothing and yet everything, for me a moment where God lifted our spirits to a plane where we could truly feel His grace. Not with a conversation, not with study, but with music. I think that everyone in that room felt it, and once again, I realized that I had just met some more brothers that I just hadn’t known before.
“Music does bring people together. It allows us to experience the same emotions. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit. No matter what language we speak, what color we are, the form of our politics, or the expression of our love and faith. Music proves: WE ARE ALL THE SAME.” –John Denver