Today after work (I am able to work hours as a lifeguard at the Y during the break I get between school and tour) I was about to walk out the door when I encountered one of the regular elderly pool guests in the hallway, sitting in a chair, playing harmonica and singing church hymns.

I suppose I could have been on my way, doing whatever it was I was off to do. I could have walked by pretending not to notice, like most people were doing. But instead I approached him, trying my best not to be shy. I stopped in front of him and listened for a minute, and when he finished the hymn, I asked “Can I see your harmonica?”

Turns out it was of the diatonic melodic variety. The harmonica had no chromatics and was best suited for playing in the key of D “which is the only key I need on church” he said. His name was Charles.

“I don’t sit here and sing for those people walking by, I sing because music is God’s way of sharing Himself to the world through me.”

Jewish but non-God believing individual that I am, I found this fascinating and worthy of much respect.

He started playing and then singing Amazing Grace and I joined in on a hum. I hummed melodies, harmonizations, basslines, improvisations and together we blended together in a YMCA hallway on a thunderstormy afternoon. When we finished the song we both laughed and exchanged the coolest high five I’ve ever been a part of.

We spent the next 40 minutes or so talking about life and college. Doing what you want want to do, doing it well. He told me a story about his daughter spending 12 years in computers, turning around, going back to school and beginning a career in nursing. Because even if you don’t find what you really want to do right away, you need to always trust yourself to take the chance to find it.

It doesn’t hurt to take a chance talking to the person singing their heart out in the middle of the world or the individual feeding the parrots or whatever unusual thing you encounter. Everyone has a story, and there is no greater deed you can do for both them and yourself is to lend an ear they can tell it to.

At the end of our conversation, he took a chain full of dog tags out of the back pocket of his bag. “Would you believe,” he said, “That 60 years ago I used to jump out of planes?”

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