By Teri Saya
It is 8:30 in the evening and I am sitting on the bus for the long ride home from work. I rest my cheek against my palm and gaze out at the city lights going by. I have grown accustomed to the lurching stops and sudden starts as the bus picks up and drops off passengers. This night, I am hoping a guitar-playing singer will not board the bus.
The last few times while riding home with a half-empty bus of weary passengers, a shabbily dressed man hops onto the bus with his scratched, un-tuned guitar and begins singing badly at the top of his lungs. Between songs, he stops long enough to announce that his mother is ill and his seven children are hungry. He does not seem too interested in trying to make his performance appealing to the captive bus audience. He finally finishes his obnoxious wailing and walks down the aisle with his hand out. Most do not make eye contact, nor hold out a peso. When he finally leaves the bus, there seems to be a communal sigh of relief. This has happened more often than not.
Tonight, a well-dressed man with a nice guitar steps into the bus and offers the driver a coin. The driverwaves his hand and the man bows and thanks him graciously. I start to cringe when he braces himself in the aisle near my seat as he places his guitar in the playing position. He begins, and to my surprise, his voice is like an angel and his guitar is in perfect pitch. He makes eye contact with the passengers who are enjoying his performance and with a nod and dazzling smile, he sings his message between ballads, “I have four children and they need shoes.” He finishes his serenade beautifully with a flourishing bow and gracefully moves to the front of the bus. Thanking each person, he gathers the many pesos held in the air, including mine, then exits out the back door.
Whether this man really did have four kids that needed shoes or not, he certainly made many more pesos than the other guy….it was how he presented himself that made all the difference.