Musician on the Road


Aloha from Los Angeles! This is Jerri Francisco from Chaminade University of Honolulu in Hawaii. 

What started off as a sluggish morning due to our early departure at 6:30am, immediately turned into an exciting day! Today we visited the Catholic Worker in Skid Row in downtown East Los Angeles. Catholic Worker prepares and serves hot meals to the homeless people who come into their kitchen. I went in without expectations but left with feelings of joy, fulfillment, and hope.  

As soon as I walked into the Catholic Worker kitchen, I was welcomed with the smell of yummy food and genuine smiles from the lovely workers. I observed how crazy things could get because every busy body was on a mission to provide warm meals to our hungry brothers and sisters. I was prepared for whatever task needed to get done. But before we do anything, we must begin with opening prayer. All the workers and volunteers gathered around the center of the kitchen, hand in hand, and asked for the grace of God to be upon us and those whom we serve. Before breaking off into our stations, our coordinator reminded us that we’re not there to serve food, but to serve our people.  

I migrated from one task to another. I went from dicing tomatoes and onions to chopping lettuce, drying dishes, and ended up buttering bagels. It seemed like we’ve been working for hours but in actuality, we accomplished so much in one hour. Then 9:30am struck; it’s time to serve the food! I was not able to directly serve in line, but I was given a better opportunity. Our coordinator assigned me to help Brother Brandon out in the garden where he was offering free 2015 calendars to those who were passing by. The garden was a beautiful, living atmosphere that brought peace to those who sat and ate there. The blooming green plants and trees filled the garden with life. Colorful murals were plastered on the walls to enhance the beauty of the garden. The sounds of birds chirping filled the air with seraphic melody. The ambience of that garden produced tranquility and peace.   

The moment I arrived at the calendar table, a gentleman approached me with a huge smile and hands full of his belongings. I noticed that he carried around a keyboard, guitar case, and two personal backpacks. I immediately greeted him with a soft smile and an enthusiastic “hello”! He was a very talkative, genuine fellow who loved to play instruments. He happily showed off his skills on the guitar, keyboard, and flute. I was filled with immeasurable delight as he played his instruments because I saw how much he loved music and shared his talents with the world. He was such a humble man because he got along with others so easily and allowed them to use his instruments, which instantly broke out into a jam session. I watched them play for an hour and each time I glanced at their direction, I felt my chest getting heavier and tears forming in my eyes. I was struck with awe because I felt the presence of God in that man. He filled me with hope because even though he has very little, he is happy and blessed to be alive. I was honored to listen to the stories about his father and the musical journey he’s been on since he was fifteen years old. A smile never left his face during our conversations. This proved to me that the least I can do for these people is to greet them with a big smile and ears to listen to their story. They want to be heard and shown attention in our ignorant world that criminalizes their living situations. We are equal human beings who deserve respect and love.

The best part that made my day was when we were packing everything up, he told me he wanted to show me something. I told him that I will meet him as soon as I store the leftover calendars inside the kitchen. When I walked out to the garden, I spotted him with a piece of paper in his hand. He showed me an article with a picture of him playing his flute at the 5th Festival For Al Skid Row Artists. At that moment, I felt so blessed to have met this guy because he trusted me with his story. It can be difficult for most people to share their experiences because of the shame and trauma it brought them. I was holding back tears as he proudly told me how much he loves to play the flute wherever he goes. We then exchanged goodbyes and smiles, and I bid him a blessed journey. I was sad to see him leave because I don’t know what awaits him in the future, but I know that God has a plan for him.

This experience has definitely opened my eyes to become more present in other people’s lives. At the end of the day, all we want and need is for someone to be there for us. I am excited to see what’s in store for us during these next few days. Mahalo!

 
-Jerri Francisco
Chaminade University of Honolulu

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