“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” – G.K. Chesterton
This is a story about giving thanks and the power of music: The last 10 years or so that I lived in Austin I attended a funky, loving little church called Journey Imperfect Faith Community. I fondly referred to it as “Hippie Church”. When we started out, we met in a borrowed room at the YMCA in NW Austin. Somehow, I ended up as the “sound person” and every Sunday I would arrive at about 5:30 in the morning to drag out all of the speakers, cables, etc. to get set up for service. We had the room until 1:00 p.m. at which time everything had to be picked up and the room cleaned for the Y to use. I joked that we were the church that came out of the closet every Sunday morning.
From very early on there was a man named Miles who would catch a ride up to the Y and help with setup. Miles was a quiet, unassuming sort; always ready to lend a hand but hard, at least it seemed to me, to get to know. I knew he was homeless yet he seemed to fit right in with our misfit little community. After quite a while we learned that he played a pretty mean bass guitar. Eventually, he would play with the band and even sing a song for us now and then.
As the “sound person” I had a good bit of discretion over what music got played while we were setting up. It was typically a mix of David Wilcox, Pierce Pettis, John Gorka, Tom Kimmel, Tom Prasada-Rao and an assortment of other singer/songwriters. Over the years, we were fortunate to have a good number of them come and play at our services with an occasional nighttime concert.
A few years later we had moved to a warehouse space a little further south. It was a really good move and I have such wonderful memories of our time in what we dubbed “The Journey Warehouse”. We finally had our own space and we filled it with thrift store sofa’s, over-stuffed chairs and a lot of love. The harsh, fluorescent lights of the Y became white Christmas lights on the ceiling during services. I was still running sound and doing setup and Miles was still catching rides every Sunday to share his gifts with us. One Sunday after service, Miles came up to me and gave me a huge hug. I always got at least one hug from him on Sundays but this was different. He held on for a long time and then looked at me and said, “I want to thank you.”. I was confused as to just what I had done to deserve his thanks so I asked. What he said has stuck with me ever since. “You know that music you play on Sunday morning? That David Wilcox guy…he’s all up in my business. It used to piss me off. I get it now and I want to thank you.” He left and I never saw him again.
Turns out Miles’ real name was Mike and he was from Canada. He was with a pretty big heavy metal band in the 80’s called Helix. I don’t know the whole story but he left the band and his family behind, assumed a new name and ended up in Austin, TX. After he left that Sunday he went back to his family in Canada and stayed in touch with some of the church members. The fact that he found his way into my life and the lives of all of us at Journey Imperfect Faith Community is something I’ll forever be grateful for. Music has the power to change lives and I’m grateful for that too.
It’s been a tough year; too tough for too many. I’m holding on to hope that 2021 will be bring a kinder world for us all. I wish you all a Thanksgiving with much to be grateful for. Namaste…