‘you’re lucky you’re married to God or else i’d scoop ya up’.
sister jovita (or sister jo, as she is usually called) hears this line several times a day down at the drop-in she helps run in the basement of a church. monday to friday her and other nuns in the city run an afternoon drop-in for the homeless; offering sandwiches, cookies, fresh coffee and a warm place to rest for a few hours. every man who has been to sister jo’s drop-in has fallen in love with her gentle nature, witty jokes and compassionate heart. it doesnt take too long talking to her to fall in love yourself.
i know this because it happened to me too. thats why when she asked me to come to the concert for the shining lights choir and help with security i couldnt say ‘no’.
i dont think she hears ‘no’ very often.
so i head down to st patricks church the next evening (saturday) for the concert. theres an amazing piper playing outside the church, greeting people as they enter the main doors. inside, a large throng of people mingle around the large catholic church waiting for the concert to begin. i run into norm, a street guy i know from grace street mission, who happens to be playing guitar for us tonight. hes an incredibly talented guitar player and song writer. im pumped to hear him perform. norm lives at one of the mens shelters around the corner and music is his passion; his therapy; his beautiful contribution to many peoples days. we catch up a bit before the concert begins and part ways with the tentative plan of grabbing coffee soon.
after a few lead up acts the shining lights choir comes on stage to perform. ive seen them before but the choir has grown a bit, with new faces in the crowd. leonard, having gone out for a smoke at the wrong time, rushes down the center aisle and finds his spot before the first song starts. leonard is one of the first guys i met on the streets here in halifax. his huge, half-toothed smiles always brought a big smile to my face, and his lame jokes that he thought so funny did as well. we share similar first nations roots and a love for pancakes with lots of maple syrup. leonard collects cans and bottles to supplement his meager social assistance cheque. he says hes happy with his life. the way he belts it out when he sing, i believe him.
the choir sings half a dozen songs and leaves to a standing ovation. you can see the giant smiles on their faces as they take their seats. encouragement and support from the community around you is an important thing. one of those most. the shining lights choir is getting a big dose of it on this night.
norm sits down with his guitar next and gives the crowd a short introduction to himself. the mic isnt working right so we dont hear it as well as we would like. the song he plays is an original ive heard him play a few times before at grace street. its powerful and real and makes me think he could write and play music for a living. he should and he probably would if his addiction would just let him go. he, too, leaves the stage to a rousing standing ovation.
regardless of the overall donations brought in that night, the night is a huge success, not because of some money figure reached but because authentic community was lived out and for that, no money figure can compare.
it was said by a famous composer that ‘music can change the world’. im not sure i believe that but i do believe that the music i witnessed last night changed a few peoples worlds last night.
one of those being mine.