A strange and lonely man came to my door
“I have nowhere to go” he said, so I let him in.
He was hungry, so I offered him food.
He was cold, so I offered him warmth.
He was lonely, so I offered him love.
He was lost, so I tried to find him.
“I am a musician, but I have lost my soul” he said.
All that remained of his life, all that he owned, he carried in two bags –
one, a battered, worn-out old brown suitcase; the other, a hard
and dusty black instrument box with well oiled locks.
“Show me your life,” I said. “Let me know you”.
And he opened the old brown suitcase with a weary familiarity and
resignation that I grew to recognize. In it was his sorrow,
his pain, his past.
Day after day, he opened the case and aired its contents…
a childhood innocence stolen too young; a lost and frightened
teenager – confused and ashamed; the desperate struggle to
run away from something he could not face; the welcoming
warmth of liquor and its false promise of comfort.
In horror, I watched each time the case came out. With dogged
determination, he rummaged through as if in some grim ritual,
as if searching for something he had lost…
a betrayal, a love lost, a marriage dead; children gone from his
presence, growing away from his love; the cunning lure of the
needle and the fleeting peace in the deceptive arms of narcotics.
A vindictive lover, a broken heart, the loss of loved ones, the questioning why; the denial of fatherhood, the absence of his children, the theft of their precious memories. So much anger, so much pain, so much false hope in a glass container. So much separation, so much anguish, so much filling of emptiness with the wrong substance.
“Shut that case and put it away forever” I pleaded. “You will not find
your soul in there. That is your past, and it is dead.”
I pointed to the other case and said to him, “Show this one to me”
He slowly unlocked it and took out a shiny, well loved, brass instrument.
“It won’t work,” he said. “The muse is gone”.
But I watched his gentle musician’s hands hold the instrument with a
familiar reverence and I glimpsed in the polished brass a reflection
of his soul.
“Look deeply,” I pleaded. “What else comes from this place?”.
“Nothing” he said quickly, and made as if to snap the lid shut with
“Please look again…surely it can’t hurt?”
And resting hidden in there, was the music…the sweet rise and fall
of a life’s soundtrack – the high notes and the lows, the rhythm and
timbre of a human being, the elusive songs of success. In there too,
was the laughter and the light – well stashed away, but there all the
And there was also the love…the love of his life, the oneness with nature, the feelings of a man for a woman, the boundless love of a father for a child…and also the hugs of a daughter, a little girl’s laughter, the tiny hand in his, the “Daddy I love you”s…the trust and the faith, the steadfast love of family.
With tears in his eyes, he closed the lid as if in fear that the contents would escape forever.
“I can’t do this” he whispered.
“Yes you can,” I said. “Open it! Let it out! In here is your future. In here
is the truth. This is where you will find your soul.”
He took the instrument, put it tenderly to his lips and played Happy
Birthday for me. My heart filled with hope. A touch of gold vibrated
softly on the air, and my spirit lifted with the mellow notes.
“ Here is something to add to your life” I said, and in the case I lay all of
my love and hope for this sad and lonely man. “Here is my belief in you
and your future…now you know where to find your soul…”
He gently placed the instrument back in its case amongst all the beautiful memories and closed the lid. “ I have to go,” he said.
He picked up the old brown case with its burden of pain and darkness,
and the black case full of music and promise, and walked out my door.
But as he left, he took something of me with him. And I hoped that
the extra weight of all the love and the believing that I had placed
in the instrument case, would somewhere up the road, make a big
difference in the direction he took and his search for a lost soul.
I wrote this for someone very dear to me, a gifted jazz musician whose struggle with his own search ended in a dark city corner many years ago.
Ken, this is for you…
(and one day, I promise, I WILL get your message to your daughters)