On a recent trip I wound my way through the airport, seeking the hotel shuttle. Not transferring planes as I normally do at this hub, I navigated unfamiliar territory: traversing terminals, ascending stairs, snaking through corridors, and riding an elevator. The sign lead me outside for a moment and then back in. Really? Next was another series of hallways.

Amid the cacophony of airport noises, I turned the corner as a faint sound reached my ears. It didn’t belong in an airport. Barely discernible, I strained to hear the improbable. Could it be? Several more steps confirmed my suspicion; a smile formed, subtle at first. The grand tones of a trumpet bathed me. My smile broadened.

The pure sounds grew stronger as my path brought me closer. This was not the prerecorded variety, amplified and distorted over speakers, but live music. The beauty of the notes overwhelmed me. Perfect in every way, it was an uplifting treat: a point of humanity overpowering the waves of inhumanity milling about me. I recognized the tune and continued moving towards it.

However, the louder it became, the more I realized it was not coming from an accomplished musician. The notes were actually sloppy and the timing, imprecise. Even so, I remained pleased for this musical reprieve.

It was also repetitious, bordering on tedium. Yet it surpassed the ever-flow of PA announcements, the beeps of vehicles trying to run me over, and the less-than-patient words of the people pressing about. Okay, so the music wasn’t perfect, but it was still nice to hear.

Another turn gave me a visual. Stationed at the intersection of corridors the musician stood, shabbily dressed, but whether out of necessity or plan, I know not. What I do know, he was playing his heart out, exuding passion.

Passersby dropped money into the cardboard box at his feet. I pulled a bill out of my wallet. Drawing close, I veered from my path to make my contribution to his art. He’d amassed a nice haul and I added to it, making eye contact as I did. He winked and out of the corner of his mouth snuck a quick “thank you” as he sucked in another breath, while only slightly affecting his timing.

I continued on. His playing wasn’t good, yet I appreciated his initiative. Even more so, he brightened my day and filled me with joy, forming the highpoint of my trip.

[This is from the April 2013 issue of Peter DeHaan’s newsletter. Sign up to receive the complete newsletter each month via email.]

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