The man with the red guitar

I’ve debated whether to write this story or not, simply because I don’t want people to get me wrong. It’s one of my struggles in life to be misunderstood. It’s why more often than not I stay silent. It’s probably for that exact reason that I prefer taking pictures and let them speak for me.

But here goes…

It’s a Wednesday night as I walk into the metro station with my girls. A friendly looking man with a red guitar passes the ticket gates at the same time as us. I love music and have a great appreciation for everyone making music instead of leaving that dream in a sealed box like I have; I smile at him and move on.

We walk onto the platform to wait for the metro. The man stops and stands right next to us. I figure he noticed my smile and wants to talk for a bit, after all Paris can be quite lonely at times. What happens next is not what I expected.

In the blink of an eye I see him lift his guitar in an attempt to slap me with it. He starts ranting: “Vous les blancs!” (You white people!). My initial reaction is shock. Wasn’t I just being nice to him? How is it that I deserve this kind of treatment? At the same time, I realize it’s not me, I have never seen this man before. His anger came before me and I just sparked it in that moment. My fear leaves my body. I’m trying to hear what he’s saying. I want to listen to his story, because I’ve learned over time that one of the most important things in life is being heard.

While trying to make conversation he lifts his guitar again. As he tries to hit me a second time I feel a hand on my arm and hear one of my girls say that her sister is crying from fear of me getting hurt. I had completely forgotten about my girls being there with me and as much as I want to hear this man’s story, the priority I have is with my kids. I move back into mom mode. I look at the man and tell him: “Stop! I hear your anger, but it’s unacceptable to scare my kids. They are too young; they don’t need this fear.”

It’s with those words that he snaps out of it. He too becomes calm, looks at me and my kids and apologizes profusely. We shake hands and get on different parts of the metro.

A couple of days later I see him again; asleep at the feet of Edith Piaf.

“Entre tes bras, dans le calme des nuits,
J’ai tant besoin d’oublier tout ce bruit !
Délivre-moi de l’enfer de cette vie…
Fais-moi mon coin de paradis…” ~ Edith Piaf

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“Look for the helpers”

I’ve just finished reading an article about vicarious trauma by Annie Wright and am actually still feeling this all through as I write…

Vicarious trauma and the subsequent grief for the state of the world we live in; it’s definitely something I’m very sensitive too. It’s for that reason that I keep following news outlets to a minimum and will hide posts in my Facebook feed.

But even when I do that, I can’t really get away from reality, nor should I.

Yesterday my girls and I went to the yearly event Paris Plage. An afternoon out and about on a makeshift beach in the center of town. Unfortunately the state of the world is such that the entrance is guarded and soldiers are on patrol, as you can maybe make out in the picture.

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The soldiers being there doesn’t really give me a sense of security. To me they are more a reminder of what may happen any time we go out anywhere in the world these days.

Of course I can let that get to me and live in fear, or I can go with the words of Mr Rogers – “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

As much as that may sound like I’m keeping myself naive, I’m mostly keeping myself open to meeting good people, the helpers.

After visiting Paris Plage we hopped on the metro back home and met Fran. Fran is most definitely a helper. He sang his heart out, kept cracking jokes at people, reaching out to touch hearts.

DSCF8960AI have a lot of respect for people like Fran and I wanted him to know. Now really, I’m not someone to just walk up to a stranger and say: “I have so much respect for you”, but I did. What followed was a most awesome discussion…

Thanks Fran, you may have just convinced me to do that more often, after all you can’t go wrong with being a helper!