Fellow Artists, Your Pain IS Your Fortune.
Trust me. If I had read that title a week ago, I would have thought the author was ready for a fight.
Okay. Truth is, I make no claims to my sanity. That would be a matter of opinion.
Here’s what has changed in the last week, however. A few days ago, I met an old friend at Starbucks. She‘s a composer, and recently became a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This is a hell of an achievement, and she is now an Oscar voter.
Rewind: I haven’t visited that Starbucks in over two years (and yet, I had a second meeting there later that afternoon). Two men stood and came up to me, both beaming. One was Brad, a homeless vet with whom I had always made time for in those days when I was writing every morning at this particular location. We caught up and will now stay in touch. The other gentleman’s name escapes me, but like Brad I always made it a point to speak to him and hang for a bit before the writing started.
Thing is, this man lost a bunch of weight, and now walked with a walker. He told me he has advanced lung cancer, and asked me to pray for him. Then he said, smiling and remembering my name: “Just kidding, Joel. It’s great seeing you but I know you‘re not religious. You told me once. I do have lung cancer and I’m at peace with it, but it sure is great seeing you again.”
Wow. I asked him if anyone speaks to him inside. He told me “no,” and furthered that he too is now homeless and sleeping in his car, while waiting to die. He then expressed that he thought about me often and it felt really good to see me “one more time.”
I went outside to sit under an umbrella for my meeting, pondering all this. My friend gets there, and I tell her what just happened. At the end of our meeting, after mutually sharing (okay, “bitching” about) some recent professional disappointments, my buddy with the lung cancer then joins us for a moment and reiterates how good it was to see me.
We shake hands and he leaves. I can’t get over how alarmingly thin he‘s become.
As I watch him off to his car, the person I’m meeting with looks at me and says, “You know, we really are privileged. You and I and any artist still with a roof over our heads need to step back and realize how fortunate we really are. Stop complaining and speak to everyone because you really are making a difference without realizing it. You just made his day.”
Nothing profound here. Just an interesting meeting with some truthful words spoken at the end. Words that have since become food for thought.