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realized what the big guy was so upset about.
He yelled at the priest about my visit from the doctor and that I was just a kid and the last thing I needed to hear was any kind of guilt trip. He said a bunch of other stuff that really can't be printed here, but he basically gave the good father the choice of leaving or getting his fanny kicked up between his shoulder blades. The priest did the smart thing and left.
After the big guy calmed down he said a few things about how much my current situation sucked but that it wasn't my fault. Then he tossed me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of dirty magazines and went back to sleep.
I was still in a blue funk the next morning and through most of the day. The biker dude got sick of watching me sit there and mope so he tried to give me a pep talk, but I wasn't buying it. I was pretty much convinced that my life was over.
Finally he told me to get out of bed and go do something. I asked him what exactly he had in mind (I'm editing the language here pretty heavily, folks) and he pointed to my banjo case and suggested that I go play a few songs.
Then he said something I'll never forget. "Maybe that's why your old man brought it here. Maybe he's trying to tell you something."
So I put on my robe and walked out into the hall carrying my banjo and dragging an IV stand.
I wound up spending the day going from room to room playing the handful of songs I knew. At first I felt like an idiot walking up to strangers in a hospital trying to play the banjo with a tube sticking out of my arm, but after the first couple of visits something started to happen.
People were welcoming me with open arms. It was like, "Hey! The banjo's here!" and the patients that I visited fussed over me like a member of the family. I played the banjo and sang songs like "You Are My Sunshine". After listening and signing along for a while they would start talking.
They talked about anything and everything you could imagine. What they were afraid of, what they were dealing with and what they had done right and done wrong. It hit me that the music (not just the banjo, but the act of making and sharing music) was creating some sort of a connection with the folks I was visiting. They saw the banjo and found an opportunity for something. It's hard to say what that something was because it was different for everybody I met that day. Some of them made me laugh and some of them cried on my shoulder. A couple of times I had family members stop me on the way out the door for a hug. People kept thanking me like what I was doing was some kind of a big deal and it took me a little while to realize that, to them, it was a big deal.
Someone had simply cared enough to show up. Somebody had come along with a smile and a couple of old folk songs to let them know that they weren't alone. I was reaching people. I was making a difference, however small, in the lives of the people I was meeting.
I was also finding out that I had something I could share. I wasn't useless. I had this banjo and I could use it to brighten my corner of the world even if only for the space of a few tunes.