The year was 1979, I was far from home, didn't fit in, was homesick and ill. My refuge was a local park not far from where I was staying. My favorite picnic table shielded me from the world I'd grown tired of dealing with at the ripe old age of seventeen, behind a cluster of bushes and trees.
I'd lie on my table, dreaming of better times, as much of the future as I could imagine--miss my home.
That's when I met... him.
I guess "met" is a bit of an overstatement, for I never even saw him, nor he me, but his mere presence was a comfort.
On the other side of my shield of trees I'd hear him. First the warm up, the inevitable throat clearing, and then he'd play his guitar and sing. Every few minutes he'd stop mid-sentence, and in my mind's eye I saw him scribbling on a notepad. Then he'd start again, sometimes from the beginning, sometimes the line he'd just sung. I never heard voices or signs of others with him, and during the week the park was pretty much deserted except for a homesick teenage girl and an aspiring singer/songwriter.
He gave me something to look forward to on my morning walks, in a time when I needed something, anything positive to cling to. Would he be there today?
I never dared to interrupt him by making myself known. Besides, he'd come to the park for privacy. Was I wrong to eavesdrop?
Then days went by, and weeks when my health kept me from the park. I recovered and moved away, and I'd never once laid eyes on my favorite musician.
And he never signed an autograph for his biggest fan.
So to the young man who practiced his songs in a park in Milton, Florida thirty-six years ago, I hope that I've heard you on the radio, maybe even seen you on TV. Who knows, maybe I've bought your CDs. I certainly hope so, and I hope you made it big.
You never know what kind of impact you can have on others without realizing. A smile, holding the door, a kind word... or a song.
To a stranger--well, maybe not a stranger, after all, I was privy to some of his deepest thoughts though his music--thank you.