Enter strangers, leave friends...
Thirty years ago, I opened my home to strangers from all over the world. Likewise, around the globe, people I’ve never met have invited me to stay in their homes. I do this because of a belief in the importance of connections to overcome prejudices and fears. It has been a step toward creating a wonderfully rich life. Part of the richness of my life is reaching out to people who seem to be different from me and then discovering we’re not so different at all.
Today, the traveling piano man, Danny Kean, and his dog Boner just left after staying six nights at our home. My husband David and I had never met him but when he e-mailed me about staying for two nights with us, I told him more than two nights were fine.
And I’m glad he stayed longer.
Danny sold his house and leaped big-time into uncertainty. Most of us are afraid of uncertainty, otherwise we wouldn’t be afraid of death. Confronting uncertainty and immersing himself in the present, Danny has taken a leap of faith that the path he has chosen will continue to enrich his life as well as others.
He travels with Boner next to him and a piano on the back of his red pickup truck. During the day, he stops here and there and brings a gift of music. It might be in a park or on a street corner. It might be on the beach or in front of your house.
A gift of music and Boner too
The gift of music is not merely his piano playing, although he belts out a fantastic rendition of Nola and various high energy ragtime music and soothes the soul with free-spirited improvisations. His
gift is empowering others with creativity and music they may not have known they had in them.
You see, when Danny pulls his truck over, he invites people to his truck. Part of his gift is Boner too. Danny wants the world to meet Boner who is more than 14 years old and who perches on tops of the piano on the truck bed. Boner greets curious visitors who approach and seems perfectly content to be part of this music experience.
Danny invites people to climb aboard the bed of his truck and sit at his piano and play. Most people are shy and are reluctant to do this, probably because they feel they can’t play the piano. Before you know it, Danny has talked them into playing. With gentle persuasion, he encourages them. He says that even one note is music. Then he tells them he’ll count to 60 and they should play until he gets to 60. He counts quietly out loud and somehow untrained fingers begin to create music.
I saw a young woman on her birthday, who reluctantly sat down and played while her three children listened in surprise. I saw a young husband and his pregnant wife play together for their unborn baby. These people had no training but you could see the change in their faces as Danny allowed them to be free, encouraging them along the way. He empowers people to get in touch with themselves through music.
We’ll miss Danny and Boner and their special magic and hope they’ll visit us again.
I haven’t answered the question about how we go about meeting these strangers all over the world. Thereare three organizations that we’ve had experience with: Couch Surfing, Hospitality Club and Servas.
We’ve had the most experience with Servas which was founded in 1949 by Bob Luitweiler and some friends who envisioned a grass-roots movement toward world peace by people opening their homes to one another. We’d just experienced a second world war and it seemed we couldn’t depend on our leaders to prevent a third world war. It sounds idealistic and perhaps it is, but it works for those who are open to this experience.
I like to tell people that I used to look at a map and see only names of places. Now, after 30 years with Servas, I look at a map and see names of places where my friends live.
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely. Broad, wholesome, charitable views cannot be acquired by vegetating in one's little corner of earth. (Mark Twain)
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Highly recommended reading
David's compelling article about The Sun's latest round of lay-offs.