from Barbara Calkins.
She sang horribly as I entered the BART station. People were looking and whispering she was a junkie. It continued while I waited for my train, and humanity moved away from her.
Suddenly I heard her beside me. I was uncomfortable. My mind was making many judgments. "Please," she asked, "I don't want your money, I don't want food. I want you to critique my singing." I cringed internally, yet found my compassion. She was a human being in some level of crisis.
I smiled softly and asked, "Why do you want to be critiqued, is it not enough just to sing?" She agitated, "No, it's not. My twin sister died this morning at 2:45am and I need her to hear me sing beautifully."
I was floored. I softened further. "If your sister just died, you don't need a critique, you need a hug. I am so sorry."
She smiled sweetly, like a child. "Will you listen?" I said "Yes, until my train comes."
Her body heaved with relief. She just needed to be heard. "Can I take your picture?" I asked. "No, not until you listen and critique me."
I was cornered. "Alright, I'll critique you, but I need you to sing with your heart."
She did. It was amazing, her body, her demeanor completely changed, and the moment changed me. I had judged.
She came alive, singing a song to her twin. Her raspy desperate banter turned soulful and sweet, and every note hit beautifully and pure. I teared up and felt each note as her soul sang.
When she was done. I said, "That was amazing. I know your sister heard you through heart, because mine did." She lit up like Christmas, and posed for a photo, as the train swallowed our meeting and I left with this image.
Thank you Felicia. You have taught me so much. And the sound of your soulful voice is still singing in me.