Last weekend, I spent some of the most interesting nights of my entire journey in the Chicago area. To fully explain the story, I must go back to several months ago when my venerable old band director pulled me and twenty-one other students aside after class one day. He announced that he was taking some members of the Itasca Orchestra (which he also directs) to Chicago to attend a Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and that we were invited, too.
The Chicago Challenge
It was a month later when I truly realized what I had gotten myself into. Brilliant thinking, Rudy. Great job. You’re gonna have to sleep outside in Chicago, smart one. Fortunately, my band director, who is really an incredible guy in all respects, was able to make hotel arrangements for me to sleep on the outdoor sun deck of the suburban hotel we were staying at.
After an eight-hour bus ride, we arrived at the hotel and I set up my tent. The night passed without incident, and the next day, my friends and I were treated to an array of museum visits, and of course, a fantastic concert.
The Chicago Incident
The final night, too, passed without incident, until morning, when I awoke to the unmistakable sound of footsteps outside my tent. My heart started pounding in my chest. Reason told me that this was probably a harmless hotel guest, but who knew? I quietly unzipped the tent flap and climbed out to see a man leaning against the railing with his back to me. Heart still thrashing, I began to take down my tent. He heard me and turned, watching me curiously. “Good morning,” he said with a warm smile and twinkling, amused eyes. I smiled back and returned his words. “Beautiful morning to come drink coffee in the sun,” he said, taking a sip.
“Yeah, I really like the morning light,” I replied. “That’s why I started sleeping outside.”
There followed a long and pleasant conversation as he helped me take down my tent, in which I learned that he was originally from Colorado and that he was an avid camper himself, even in his seventies. We spoke about the connection when we slept outside, the deep, soul-fulfilling peace of mind gained from time in the outdoors. When we finally went our separate ways, I gave him a poster, and he promised to sleep outside on the 6th.
The Chicago Lesson
This guy really taught me something important. I think I’ve always known it, but it took meeting him to truly realize that we should never lose faith in humanity. No matter how many people there are that will hurt you or take your money, there will always be those who will have a heartwarming conversation with you on a shining morning. Those people are the true friends of the world; they will help you when you need them, even if they don’t know you. They’ll give you a smile when you’re feeling down, they’ll offer you a hand when you’ve fallen, they’ll even sleep outside for you or donate to your fundraiser. It doesn’t matter how different your beliefs are, or where you came from. They’ll be there for you when you need them.