in Salt Lake City
I was standing on an icy sidewalk directing lines of film goers, when I first noticed this small bearded man arrive on a bicycle. He disappeared with his bike through the theatre doors, and then returned to the sidewalk carrying a cello case.
So Much to Learn
For one cold week, my daughter and I were first time volunteers at the Sundance Film Festival. We worked a week at a downtown Salt Lake City theatre as Crowd Liaisons. We had to learn about the somewhat confusing system for lining up different groups in front of the theatre. We learned how to deal with VIPS should they arrive on the scene. And we learned a quick bit about Eli. "He comes here every day to play his cello for the lines. They let him keep his cello inside. Sometimes he gets upset about things. Don't try to handle him yourself, just tell the box office."
Smiling and Shivering
Heidi and I spent many hours in front of that theatre smiling and guiding folks. We also spent a lot of time shivering, despite our freebie jackets, gloves and hand warmers.
Nearby, Eli played for the crowds, bundled in his own jacket with knit cap and gloves. A few locals greeted him and called him by name. Some dropped money in his cello case. I never saw Eli get upset or angry about anything. He just came and went throughout the day. He seemed to know when the lines would be longest and his audience would be the largest. He performed, then rode away on his bike.
On My Last Day
After days of observing and listening, I approached Eli as he was packing up his cello to leave. I told him I wanted to thank him for sharing his music all week. I couldn't name some of the classical pieces I recognized but they were almost haunting in their beauty. I asked if I could take a photo and he pulled his cello out again. I dropped a 10-dollar bill in his case. He smiled and spoke very softly. "I love you. Take as many as you like."
I think of you every time I see a musician on the street...especially if it's cold. I heard you went to Julliard, but you said you couldn't remember when I asked. I worry a little bit about you, since I'm not sure if you even have a home. But I choose to remember you in this photo, with a playful smile. You have your music. Clearly, that's a lot!
To celebrate my birthday in April 2012, I decided to reflect on the past with a different kind of list. I've met a lot of people in my 55 years, but I'm going to stop and remind myself about the strangers I've met. These are people I met by accident, not through friends or work. For some reason, these strangers dropped into my life. Even though we may have only spent a few minutes together, these people have never been forgotten.
Each week, I'll spotlight someone I met in the past, who in some small way, made me stop and think.
Remember 55 Strangers