Inspiration in a Pizza Joint

You never know when you may be the lucky recipient of an inspirational moment, something that causes you to take pause and think and really appreciate what you have and the incredible resilience of fellow human beings.

Last night I went with my wife to a local hole-in-the-wall pizza parlor where we heard rumor live jazz was going to be played. As our neighborhood is sadly lacking in after-hours-entertainment of this type, we showed up early and got a good seat, close to the action but not so close that you had to shout to be heard. It was a small place, probably seating about 50 people max so the setting was very intimate so we were just a few feet away from the live performers.

Within twenty minutes, the first musician climbed the stage with saxophone in hand. He did a wonderful job playing two soulful songs with the background provided by a drummer, keyboard, and bass player. He finished his second song, accepted his light applause, and returned to his table where a well deserved adult beverage awaited him.

We learned that this was how the evening was going to progress with numerous musicians of all ages and proficiencies stepping up to play a few songs and then making way for the next performer. There was a small whiteboard on a stand and whoever wanted to play just signed up, with ages ranging from what looked like about 20 to what was definitely at least 65. What fun – we were in store for some talent-filled times over the next two hours.

Enjoying our pizza, I observed the other members of the audience as they filtered in to find a seat. A pair of twins took a table next to us, an older gentleman sat at the nearby bar air-drumming along with the music, and students from the local college joined the growing ranks. I noticed a man who came in on a pair of crutches, struggling a bit to navigate the narrow path between booths and tables, but with a big smile on his face. He sat down with the twins and listened to the trombone performer currently wailing on stage. The young brass player finished his first song, took a breath, and started his second and final rendition.

About this time, I noticed the man on crutches working his way up to his feet and then carefully to the booth in front of us. I was rocking out to the jazz and assumed he just wanted to get a little closer to the action. I saw him raise a small suitcase from the floor and carefully place it on the table top. He opened it and took out a mouthpiece that was to fit on the end of the saxophone stored within. Holding it carefully while balanced on the end of the seat, he adjusted the reed and wetted it and fiddled with it, preparing for his performance.

The trombone player finished, took a bow, and headed back to his seat. The man with the crutches carefully rose with his saxophone suspended around his neck. With one crutch on his left side, he started forward, his free hand moving from chair to chair to keep him stable. The stage was about 10 feet away but it took him a few minutes to manage the distance. He was offered a chair to sit on but turned it down, instead leaning against the booth closest to the stage. Once situated, he turned to his right to face the audience and share a brief smile. The song to play was agreed upon and with a one and a two and a three, they began. And he was good. Not just good, but GOOD! Crisp, clean notes rolled from his instrument, tight harmonies with the others on stage, smooth transitions, just pure sweet music. I may have imagined it, but I swear he had a smile on his face while he was playing. He finished his first song and was heartily applauded by the audience and his fellow musicians. A quick breath and he started in on his second song which was equally as beautiful. Inside of me, I felt a pride for what he had done and admiration for what it must have taken to get here.

How difficult must it have been to focus on playing such beautiful music when at any moment you might slip from your perch and end up on the floor?

How much effort and commitment and never-say-die attitude did it take to get that good despite his physical challenges?

How much faith in himself was needed just to participate and excel amidst a group of generally younger, universally talented, and physically fit fellow musicians?

You never know where you will find inspiration. You never know when someone’s strength may become your strength. And you never know just what you might find at your local pizza parlor on an average-every-day week night.

Inspiration is everywhere if you just tune in to hear it. Now that’s music to my ears…

David Bernard is a guest blogger for PickTheBrain. He is the founder of the blog Love Being Retired.

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