Walking down the street in Piqua, Ohio, I stumbled onto an old Episcopal Church made of stone and adorned with gorgeous stained glass. A pickup truck out front served as work space for two locals who had removed the church’s antique front doors for repair.
After stopping to ask if it was ok to go inside, I climbed the front steps and passed through the opening where large red doors with enormous ornate hardware should have been.
Natural light flooded through colorful stained glass in all directions, giving the sanctuary an almost other worldly feeling. That alone was worth the visit but I was greeted by another surprise, a man playing the piano with the confidence and grace of a trained concert pianist. I stayed for just a few minutes but he never stopped playing, agilely transitioning from one song into another without a break.
Normally I would say that churches are best enjoyed in solitude but having this space filled with extraordinary music made the experience so very special.
I chatted with one of the woodworkers on the way out and learned that the pianist is known around town, always scruffy, always carrying the nap sack I saw resting next to the piano, and possibly homeless. This possibility made me sad. The thought of anyone being homeless is horrible and it seems such a shame that a person with this kind of talent would be down on his luck.
It was a good reminder to not judge a person or place, especially when you don’t know the entire story. The woman I spoke with said that she sees him around town but was amazed when he showed up one day and began playing song after song.
This is why I wander small town side streets and backroads It is these peaks behind the curtain and the surprises around the corner that make it worthwhile. The glimpse inside the church and the powerful gift of song from someone that locals know as a street person made my day. It gives me cause to keep going, to keep looking for the secrets that our world holds and to keep looking around the next bend.