Dear Mr. Man…

March 22, 2009

Mr. Ayers’ Cello

I was watching 60 Minutes this evening and received a very unexpected surprise. There was the facinating story of  Nathaniel Ayers, a homeless, schizophrenic, musical prodigy and Steve Lopez, a down and out reporter for the Los Angeles Times. Mr. Ayers and Mr. Lopez  do not refer to each other by their first names out of deep respect for each other, so I will proffer the same respect in this post.

Although I included the trailer for the upcoming motion picture, The Soloist (starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr.), I am not going to discuss the movie.

What was fascinating to me was the relationship that developed between Mr. Ayers and Mr. Lopez. Initially, Mr. Lopez was only interested in Mr. Ayers as a human interest story to revive his faltering career. Instead, he discovered a virtuoso. A musical genius who lost his dream to the demons that plagued him. He lost a full scholarship to The Julliard School as he slowly lost his mind. He ended up as one of the 60,000  homeless people that roam the streets of Los Angeles at night. He became one of the forgotten ones.

Mr. Lopez began to discover the magic of this special man over the course of writing columns for his paper about him. The two men developed a mutual respect and admiration for each other. Mr. Lopez would bring Mr. Ayers to his home and to his family simply to provide a sense of normalcy and stability to a man who possessed neither. In the process, Mr. Lopez gained more from this man that a few columns in his paper.

Two men from two different worlds. One would normally step over the other invisible one as he rushes to hail a taxi. One would look normally look at the other with pity, disdain, or contempt. One would clutch his briefcase just a little tighter as he passed. Until he got to know the man and not the stereotype.

What if we move beyond that which is safe and comfortable and got to know someone who is different from us? What if we removed the barriers of race and religion and place in society and truly saw each other as children of the Creator? Many people are one paycheck away from becoming destitute and homeless. Could be your co-worker, your neighbor, or you. Can we truly afford to not to try to walk in Mr. Ayers shoes? There is a chance that we will miss out on the sweet barotones of his cello.

Man up.

Mr. Man

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