Monday, December 29, 2008

The First Annual Musician's Carol

Happiness depends more on how life strikes you than on what happens. Andy Rooney
On Thursday, December 18, a group of Calgary musicians got together to hold the First Annual Musician's Carol on behalf of the DI. It started with a guy named Lester Howe. He came into my office one day and said, "I want to make a difference. Can I pull some musicians together and put on a concert for you guys?"

And he did. While the weather outside was frightful, the sounds and spirit inside Dicken's Pub, where the event was held, were delightful! Even though weather was an inhibitor, the roads were treacherous and holiday spirits were wearing out on the last few shopping days 'til Christmas there was a good crowd throughout the evening to partake of the amazing music. Through the generosity of the performers and those who attended, the First Annual Musician's Carol raised $675.

During the evening, Lester kept coming up to me and saying, "Next year will be even bigger. I've already booked the venue and the night." I'm sure he's right. The evening was big enough that night to open hearts and minds to the possibilities of doing even more for those who need our help.

On the night of December 18, I felt like I was part of something that transcended the every day. It was a community spirit of giving. A sense of belonging to something filled with possibility, filled with giving to receive the gift of music, of talent, of connecting to something bigger than just ourselves.
During the evening, the musicians came up to thank me for making it possible for them to support the shelter. What awesome spirits! They had all volunteered their time and were grateful for the chance to give back. When I invited them to contact me if they wanted to come into the shelter to put on a show, they all jumped at the opportunity.
"Hey!" one guy said after hearing he was welcome to come in and play for clients. "I've been there. Down and out. Without my music, I'd still be down. It's the least I can do if it might help someone else get out of that place of feeling like the only place you got to go is down."

The gift of empathy. The gift of caring. The gift of giving. It was an evening filled with the joy of being human.

It was also an evening to witness the human condition struggling to find itself somewhere in the chaos of a bar. A place to see the parallels of life on the street played out on the bar room floor.

Late in the evening a tall, skinny man, clad head to toe in black walked into the pub. Black hair. No hat. No scarf. His face had a tight, pinched look. I smiled at him from behind the podium where I was seated at the door. A stack of DI newsletters sat on the counter top beside me. A grey tin cash box, lid closed, rested in front of me.

"What's this?" he asked pointing at the cash box. A confused look on his face at the realization that I was there for a reason.

"It's a benefit concert for the DI." I told him.

"You mean I have to pay to get in?" He hesitated. Eyed the stairs towards the exit. Glanced at the bar. "I..." He stopped. His shoulders lowered, his head dropped forward, his chin touched the collar of his black leather coat. He shook his head. He let out a big sigh. "Great. I shoulda known. It's my birthday. I just want a drink. I'm not here to listen to music. I'm fighting with my boss. He wants to cut my pay. He keeps saying I'm lucky to have a job and with the economy..." He took a breath as if to continue on with his tale of woe.

"Happy Birthday! Please feel welcome to come in." I smiled and said quickly. "Giving is an option. Have a nice evening."

He stood in front of me for a moment. Confused. Someone else entered and I turned to greet them. He slid away to the bar and ordered a drink. He turned his back to the musicians on the stage, hunched his shoulders over a beer and stood by himself, a solitary figure in black. Lonely. Sad. Lost.

He reminded me of many of our clients. A well worn path to the bar, their minds filled with the stories of why they're where they're at and will never get to where they want to go, if only they knew where that was. They can't see the story on the other side of opening up to possibility and lose their sense of direction. Stuck in where they're at, they cannot find a way out.

For that man, finding a reason not to give is all he can give. Perhaps one day he'll give himself the gift of a new story of his life, but for now, he's where he's at. All I could give him was a smile and an invitation to come in from the cold.

Later, a young man stumbled across the floor, his body weaving from side to side. He wasn't with anyone. He didn't have a drink anywhere that I could see. And still he stumbled. Another patron brushed past him. The young man stopped. Scowled. Stared after the other man who was oblivious to their brief encounter. His face scrunched up in thought. Did he want to fight? Duke it out. Call out, "Hey man. You pushed me." I hesitated. Not sure if I should approach him. Not sure if I should get him a chair.

As quickly as the encounter happened, the young man turned around as if he'd forgotten something. Perhaps where he was. He stumbled up the stairs and disappeared into the cold night, buttoning his coat as he left.

An older man sat at the lottery machine behind me. Sixties. Perhaps seventy. He plugged the machine with coins and sipped on a drink. He sauntered over to me, one finger pointing and shaking in front him. "Hey! Wanna dance?" he slurred. His grin was toothy. His eyes watery. He reminded me of some of our older clients at the shelter. The only difference was, this man has a home to go to. His clothes were clean. He obviously had cash. But the behaviours were the same. The loneliness that pervaded his being, the need to belong, the desire to connect, I see those things every day at the shelter.

We are all connected by the human condition of our lives. We all have a story to tell, a reason for where we're at, an excuse for why we cannot give and receive, a reason why we give and receive.

It was an evening of magic. Of life unfolding. Of giving and receiving. It was a night of human beings celebrating creativity, no matter the condition of our spirit; no matter where we laid our heads down to rest after the celebrations were over.

Thank you to Lester Howe for his gift of creativity, his willingness to give so that we could receive.

Thank you to Todd Stewart and the team at Dicken's Pub. You made the world a better place by giving us a place to stage the event, a place to come in from the cold on that bitter night.

Thank you to the musicians.
Troy and Joni
Raw Boswin
Kenneth Locke
Bryan Bayley and the circus
Jonathan Ferguson
Black Dog
Ralph Boyd Johnson
Molotov Smile

Your music creates a world of difference. Your generosity of spirit, the sharing of your talents and your gifts creates a different sound in the world, a song of faith, hope and love. Thank you for sharing your music and song, your talents, time and energy.

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