Since starting elementary school two year earlier, he always noticed an older man who sat on the side of a street on the edge of downtown, singing with a guitar for tips in his cup. He thought the man was fantastic at the guitar but that his singing needed to be only as a back-up role. So, one day he just decided to listen and see if the man would talk with him. For the first time really noticing the man, Joseph realized that he had a withered leg that he had to stretch out flat when he sat and could only walk with the help of a cane. Joseph was at that moment the only person around, so the man, named Ray, decided to start a conversation.
"Hello, young man," he said. "My name is Ray and I've seen you walk by many times but what made you stop today. I'm glad to have your company."
Joseph was embarrassed to bring up his singing, so instead asked, "Why do you come here everyday and play your guitar? I love the way you play."
Ray smiled and said, "I'm pretty good at it but, judging from your words, you know my singing isn't very good."
As the conversation continued, Joseph asked him why he was here on the corner so often and he said it was his job, that after he came home from Vietnam disabled and as a broken man to find his wife had left with his two children, he just wanted to disappear onto the street. Joseph told him about his own situation and Ray sympathized, saying that he himself had been fortunate to at least have a good childhood with loving parents.
Ray was clean and neat, clean shaven, too, and he told Joseph he made enough money in this gig to put a roof over his head with a safe place and a bed to sleep in, food in his belly and clean clothes on every day. He really didn't expect anything more in this world. He said he was a man of faith and would look forward to the next world with peace, harmony and kindness everywhere. He also came forth with a particular question for Joseph.
He asked, "Joseph, do you like to sing and how is your voice? What kind of music do you like."
Joseph's eyes were bright and he smiled as he said, "I love to sing, Mr. Ray. My grandmother says my voice is beautiful but you might not think so. And I love the old spirituals and the older Methodist hymns. I go to the African Methodist Episcopal Church."
Ray suggested they give it a try, starting with Amazing Grace. He handed Joseph an old hymnal in case he didn't know the words. As they began, Ray's energy on the guitar was increased by the beautiful young voice that he heard and he softly harmonized in the background, realizing that was the limit of his singing voice. Before the first hymn was done, they drew a crowd and so they kept on and on. When they decided to finally call it a day, Ray had fifty dollars in his cup, about double his usual take. He offered Joseph half but Joseph said that was too much, saying Ray needed the money to live and he didn't. Ray insisted that he take at least twenty dollars and then he made an offer.
Ray said, "Want to make this a regular, say on Tuesday and Friday afternoons after school and on Saturday when the shopping traffic is heavy?"
Joseph was ecstatic, saying, "Well, Mr. Ray, what I've earned today is a lot more than I can get hustling stores for a sweep and mop job or other clean up. Let's do it."
Over the next six months, young Joseph had earned over seven hundred dollars, spending very little for himself, giving five hundred to his grandmother to help with things and putting two hundred in his savings envelope in the bottom of his dresser. And that doubled over the next few months while their fame spread throughout the town. Then, on a Saturday morning, the minister of the church Joseph attended with his grandmother stopped to listen, put a twenty in the cup and told them he'd be back the following week with others.
The following week, just as promised, Pastor Wells arrived with several church council members to listen, each giving money as the listened and asking Ray and Joseph to meet with them. They were offered a weekly gig for cash at the Wednesday night prayer meeting and since Joseph usually was there with his grandmother, it was agreeable to all.
Now well known by both the local community and the local church, they were invited to perform on occasion during Sunday services and Joseph committed to joining the choir and adding his melodic voice to the music program. All of these activities continued as Joseph grew and by the time he was a rising senior in the local high school, he was asked to come to a church council meeting by Pastor Wells. His grandmother told him to go alone, that the church had something important to discuss with him.
Sure enough, as he entered the church dressed in a suit and tie the Pastor, on behalf of the church as well as higher church authority, offered him a full scholarship to attend the Bible Music College to study voice and instrumentation, for Joseph was now showing promise with the piano as well.
"I have to warn you, Joseph," the Pastor said solemnly. "The scholarship is for full room and board but all of your incidentals and travel are on you."
Joseph smiled as he said, "Pastor, I've been saving lots of money from my gig with Ray and the Wednesday night performances. I'm excited and ready to make the Church proud."
Well, I will end the story now for I want readers to reach a conclusion with the imaginative spirit. What happened to Ray? How far did Joseph go with his music? They can go anywhere we want to take them, but the important point of the story is to point out that each of us, no matter how smart, rich, poor or capable we are, has a special gift that He put us on this earth to use for His glory. Have you found yours? Are you still seeking it? Do you know where to look for the answer?
The answer to the last question is simple. Just open your heart, let the Holy Spirit engulf you and let God help you find that answer. Do that, and you'll find it and who knows where it will lead you, but you can assured that it will lead you where God wants you to be. And when you enthusiastically reach that point, your future is secured.