emanuel ame church charleston

I wasn’t there when Yo-Yo Ma picked up his cello. I didn’t see him leave Charleston’s Gaillard Center and stroll into the starry night. I imagine he clung to the Anson Street sidewalk and cut a lone figure in the crosswalk at Calhoun.

Sometimes, darkness makes
anyone anonymous.

I guess strains of his Bach encore still paraded through his head, lending imaginary life to the silent street. An empty school. A sleeping office space. The harsh cry of a feral cat. Footprints of a world-famous musician.

I wish I could follow those footsteps.
I wish more humans would.

I don’t know which bank of stairs led him to the building’s entrance, its usual whiteness gray in the moonlight. Were people already gathered when he arrived? Did they mob him as soon as he pushed through the antique wooden door, afraid of another stranger in their midst? Or did he clatter up the aisle unimpeded to take his chair at the front?

I don’t know what Yo-Yo Ma said to the congregation of Mother Emanuel AME Church that night. He walked alone from the glittering Gaillard Center and its black tie crowd, and he played a free concert for a church of the still-grieving, the mostly forgotten.

In a world of non-stop sensational news,
he remembered their fallen.

He requested an audience with Mother Emanuel’s congregation. The free concert was his idea, his way to minister to people who experienced hatred, violence, and permanent loss. He knew music wouldn’t soothe their souls, erase senseless gunfire, or bring back their dead. But music was all he had to give.

His publicist didn’t send out any announcements. No news crews recorded the event. It wasn’t preened on social media. He was just a man with a cello, walking alone. A musician who couldn’t forget one community’s profound grief.

If I’m ever in a position to offer such a gift, I hope to mimic Yo-Yo Ma’s example.

Heard about any unsung good deeds lately?
Share yours in a comment today.

***Image from Mother Emanuel AME Church website.

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