Strangers - or are they?
It was the third time in a row I had been ignored by a stranger I greeted on my walk. She looked away before my smile had the chance to reach her eyes. Unfortunately, our lives are filled with fewer friends than strangers, whom it can be all too easy to pass by without acknowledging. Countless hours are spent investing ourselves in our companions, those for whom we reserve all of our love for. Yet how many hours are spent in the presence of those people we do not know, or care to know, in a lifetime? Time spent on the bus, in line at the teller, at the checkout, stumbling past pedestrians day after day, year after year, while we hang on so tightly to our supply of smiles!
I am not insisting that it is possible to be cheerful at all times. We all have times when we have surpassed our tolerance for people and there is nothing left to give. And then, there are those times in life where we are broken, empty or angry. I am a social person, but when I was enveloped in the grief of losing my father, I could not bear the thought of being around people. Yet right in my darkest time of isolation, I was still able communicate to many through singing. Those songs bridged the gap that my pain had formed between humankind and myself. Sometimes we cannot even love ourselves, much less others. Yet in those spaces in our journey when we feel even a little sympathy, is it not possible to be the one to reach out or at the very least, begin to receive kindness from the others brave enough to give it?
Why must we bind up our hearts so tightly? Why is it that unless we know and like a person, we do not give even the tiniest piece of the vast store of love that lies within us? Each of us wants to be known. But is knowing a prerequisite for loving? I am discovering how sacred even ten seconds with a stranger can be. I ponder what would change if we determined in our hearts that we will love each human being we encounter, from our server to our mail carrier? What if there was a true, open, embracing of each person, no matter how good looking, influential, respectable or kind? A pure fondness that begins in our hearts, seeps through our eyes and is sometimes revealed by words. Music has enabled me to love thousands upon thousands of strangers. I have been able to share my deepest pain, my greatest joys, and the reason for my hope. There has been no greater privilege. I have learned that many people feel like they know me because of the communication that has miraculously occurred through the medium of music. It has the power to bring strangers together and feel like they have known one another for a lifetime.
-Written November 2006