Connecting Through Music
By Andrew Christy
It was sometime in August, 2015. I had just come back from Vermont to live in California again, as I wanted to be near my family and best friends. These are the people I really care about, after all, and I want to do everything I can to help them in their times of need. However, I will say I never showed that particularly generous spirit to those I don’t personally know.
I digress. I had finished unpacking everything, telling everyone I knew I was back, and more importantly I decided I needed to find a job. Luck wasn’t on my side for a good couple of weeks, and I grew incredibly antsy just being in the house. I then remembered a piece of information, that one of my friends does volunteer work for his church each week to help feed the homeless in our city. Both boredom and curiosity getting to me, I decide to message Scotty. I asked him if he had still participated in this cause, and if his group needed help tonight. I get a message back not too long after, saying the group could really use an extra pair of hands as some of the volunteers were ill. I get myself together and I then head over to their meeting point, unsurprisingly a church.
I really didn’t know what I would be in for as I walked to the entrance of this seemingly small church. It certainly didn’t look like it could host that great a number of people that really needed this kind of help. I walk in to see many pots of freshly made soup, individually wrapped sandwiches, loaves of bread, packed snacks, and I came to a realization. There were a good number of volunteers, but not a single homeless person in sight. Suddenly Scotty pops out of nowhere, and tells which cars and trucks I can bring the food too. We weren’t waiting for the homeless people to come I was told. Nope, we were to go to the homeless population ourselves. I help divide the food evenly, and then help bring everything outside to see what happens next.
I am of course brought into Scotty’s group with two of his fellow church-goers, and was given a bit more information. What happens is that these separate groups, maybe seven total, have individual routes they go on throughout this city and other cities as well. The food and supplies are distributed to those on the route, and we talk to the people as well to make sure they are okay or if they need anything. We were also given sheets of paper that had a list of various resources they could use to help themselves get back on track from not living on the streets anymore. This group in particular would visit various areas I was familiar with that had a decently sized homeless population, and other areas where I had no idea that they created hidden encampments. The way some of these people come up with ideas to be more comfortable in their living situations is innovative. For example, one man had created stairs himself, carved out of the dirt and supplemented with discarded wooden planks, into a little ditch where he made himself his own little “hut”.
I could keep going on about everything I saw that first evening, but I want to focus on one particular individual that I had met at the first stop. I had just finished getting everyone their individual bowls of soup, and, although I wanted to converse, I was a bit too shy at first to really do anything. I would simply eavesdrop on the other conversations around me, and interject with thoughts as necessary. One of the individuals approached me, though, and just started talking to me about the shirt I was wearing. Most of my casual shirts are ones I had bought at many of the concerts I have attended, and he recognized this band in particular, D.R.I., which was a punk band. Suddenly we were just storming off about all the shows we had attended, and I discovered that he himself was an old-school punk rocker and had even played in a band at one point. Amazingly, he had found himself an old bass and amp in a dumpster, and recovered it for himself to continue practicing as he felt for personal entertainment, and even ran back to his tent to bring it over to me so I could check it out. It’s amazing how much music, especially for those of us into the more underground scenes, bonds us. I had said bye, and I told him I would see him next week.
I didn’t see him that next week though. Quite honestly, I’m not actually sure what ever happened to him. According to my friend Scotty, he wasn’t a regular in our city, and I was in fact the only person that had ever caught his name in the first place. Every week when I do the same work, I still have hopes I’ll see him again even though it’s been three years since that moment. In a way, he was the man that kept me volunteering. I had found a kindred spirit with many similarities to myself, and I thought about how I would act if I were directly in his place. It isn’t as though I hadn’t been friendly towards the homeless population before, but I hadn’t really been empathetic until that point. If I were one of those in need, would I be as friendly and outgoing? Would I be just as thankful for someone to even treat me as a human being? In fact, I even noticed some of those homeless people didn’t ask for a lot of food, and really wanted the conversation with regular folk.
Some of the individuals will eventually find their way off the streets. Some of the individuals will want to continue living the way they do. Some of the individuals will even be hostile towards any assistance. However, they are all human, and I feel it is my duty to make sure they know it, too.