Street Artist

Everybody is getting ready to celebrate a New Year – bar the few places in the world where this is forbidden. Yes, such places do exist! In some places in the world, celebrating New Year’s Eve this evening, is deemed too Christian – and thus forbidden.

But not where I am and hopefully not where you are. If you are going to welcome in the New Year today – or have already done so: all the best to you and thanks for reading, or occasionally visiting this blog. Thanks for all the encouragements, positive criticism and likes.

The blog started off as a restart of a previous one. Still have to integrate the two. Perhaps there will be time in 2016. In the meantime, there are still plenty amazing events happening to blog about.

Take this afternoon: a friend and I were sharing a fast food lunch and looking through the windows of the restaurant. At the corner of the busy shopping street, a street artist set up business. The windy corner is not his usual spot.

He puts what looks like a large dulcimer or zither, down on the cobbled street and arranges his cushion behind it. The metal strings across the closed box sometimes need tuning for ages. To play, he kneels on his cushion behind the instrument and uses two sticks he has wrapped with swathes of cotton wool, to hammer the strings. Contrary to what you may now expect, the music sounds beautiful.

But we had never seen the complete ritual when he sets up shop. His instrument did not need tuning this time. He kneeled behind it on his cushion and placed his hammers across the instrument. Then he started to pray fervently. This was followed by him putting a few coins in a nap placed in front of the instrument.

But before he could start playing, a man walked up to him. This man limped and looked like he had barely survived a major car crash, or other traumatic accident, or perhaps had barely managed to escape from one of those corners around the world where human rights and democracy are trampled into the dust.

The musician looked up at the scarred man who could not bend. Then he took his nap and poured its contend into the man’s hand. He even handed over the coins in his jacket’s pocket. No – don’t get cynical. This was a deed of charity and not some kind of protection racket. The scarred man put his hands together in some kind of thanks, then limped off unevenly.

The musician bent over his foreign instrument and started to play. The throng of people passed him by from left to right and right to left. We noticed that the well-off and those loaded with bags – some actually carrying more than two large Primark bags stuffed to overflowing – did not heed him nor his music.

Of those who did donate, roughly ninety-nine percent were non-white. One old white man stuck out. He not only donated money, but exchanged a few words with the musician. But then, he was so fascinated by the music and instrument, that unlike other people, he stopped and listened and watched. This was repeated several times, until he made it safely to the other side of the busy main street.

We debated: should we buy another fast food meal or donate money? We walked out of the restaurant to the musician. My friend told him he was blessed for handing over his money to the limping man. No idea if the musician understood what was said: he smiled and continued playing.

We held our purses upside down so all the coins landed in the nap. It already contained a hoard. Of course, not all coins were of great value. Some were just cents, but the majority were of far greater value.

Should the artist have to pay to dosh this evening, he could afford it. His nap even contained enough to afford a fast food lunch. Despite his act of charity, by the end of the afternoon, while everybody would hurry home to start celebrating New Year’s Eve, he would have enough to survive New Year’s Day.

Was it his musical talents? Was it his sincere and fervent prayers before starting to play? Was it him handing over all the money he had to someone worse off? Or was it his total and simple trust he would make enough money so he could be charitable and generous, before starting to try to earn enough for two days.

What we witnessed gave us ample food for thought. One thing we knew though: we would never have handed over all our money to someone less fortunate, simply trusting we’d make enough to tide us over well into the New Year.

But then: the haves are never as charitable and generous, as the havenots.


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