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Come Alive.

April 9, 2014

This morning at the 16th and Mission Bart station, as I stood at the kiosk looking up how much a Bart ticket to SFO costs, I realized that the person singing with a basket out for money (there’s usually at least one at every station) at this station on this morning was actually really fucking good. The kind of soulful music and voice that could make even the coldest heart melt.

So in between figuring out which way to put my card in the machine, and how many times I should hit “Subtract $1” and “add $.05” to equal $8.60, I decided he was getting all my money.

About a month ago I collected the spare change that was piling up on my dresser, put it in a little sandwich bag and dropped it in my purse. My plan was to eventually hand it off to one of the people I encounter everyday in San Francisco who ask me for my spare change.

And sure enough, I came across plenty of people everyday who asked me if I had change to spare. But I was surprised to find myself not moved to give them anything except eye contact, a nod and a smile.

I couldn’t make sense of it at first but eventually I realized that my resistance to hand off this money wasn’t me being shy or greedy, it was me being choosy about the experiences I bring into my life. Clearly I hadn’t been inspired to have an experience with any of the San Franciscans I’d encounter thus far.

Until this morning.

That music. That guy. He stood tall by the escalator, in clothes that suggested he was neither homeless nor in-need, playing a guitar and singing a song that I’m fairly sure was an original (you know… because I’ve heard ALL the songs ever written).

The passion and love in his voice told me that he wasn’t singing for Bart this morning because he needed the money. This wasn’t his attempt to collect enough change for a McDonalds hamburger. He was singing in a dirty Bart terminal because he loves singing that much. He practiced and prepared for this performance. He lives for it.

He was singing a new song now, as I walked up and placed the little sandwich bag on top of quite a bit of $5’s and $1’s in his basket. We made eye contact, both smiling for each other and nodding in recognition of the transaction we were having.

I stood by him for an extra second as I reached into my bag one more time and pulled out a “be grateful” sticker. I held it up for him as he sung, so he could see what I was giving him. He smiled, closed his eyes and nodded “thank you” and as I bent down to add my sticker to the pile, I smiled, closed my eyes and nodded back to say “no, thank YOU.”

I turned to walk away and looked back one more time. I think I was maybe beaming this time, glowing from the inside out from that sweet experience I just had and when my eyes met his again, I saw that we both were.

I’m so grateful for the people who do the thing they love anywhere, everywhere and all the time.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Find what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurman.

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