I was headed to the bus station to check the schedule and buy a bus ticket when I was approached by a homeless kid who wanted to demonstrate his beat-boxing skills in turn for a tip. Now he was a kid just a few years younger than me and had a pretty upbeat but determined vibe about him; nonetheless, I was still weary as we engaged in some friendly conversation. I complimented his beat-boxing which was in fact quite good, although I admit my knowledge of the discipline is limited. Once it became clear that I wasn't going to provide a tip, he politely conceded and wished me a good day before moving on to the next pedestrian. I never give money because I feel that there’s always the possibility that I'd be contributing to a problem. Money never solves problems. Plus I needed what I had to purchase my bus ticket. Continuing on to the station, an idea occurred to me.
It just so happened that I had my guitar on my back because I was planning to find a nice place to sit and play, such as the alluring botanical garden a few blocks away. This plan had just changed. I bought my bus ticket and returned the way I came at a slightly accelerated pace. I was on the lookout for the kid. As I got to his corner of street, my eyes didn't spot him, and I slowed and gandered.. Then I saw him, shooting his spiel to an older woman as she sauntered on through the heavy sun haze. I stood, and smiled to myself, and was patient. After he subsided, and allowed her to continue her encumbered gait unaccompanied, I approached.
I got his attention and told him my idea. He grinned, interested and pleased. I proposed that we play music together for tips. I'd supply the melody; he'd supply the beat. He agreed, and our collaboration began.
Can't say we sounded super rad. He could've used a mic to give us some more percussive power, and I could've used a better guitar and more Brazilian songs. But we were having fun. And we were working. We were thrown a bone or two from passers-by. We also had a couple supportive, temporary audiences: a drunk guy, some other urchin kids, an older gentleman.. As we rocked, our souls illuminated, and people paid attention.
Towards the end of the set, I thought to put on this guy fawkes looking ski mask I bought in Peru, which happened to be in my guitar case. I thought I was alright to look at, but once I slung on the mask earnings increased tenfold. I guess the shock factor of a masked man playing guitar and harmonica with his beat boxing sidekick is just enough to push people over the generosity hurdle. Some girl actually slowed down and threw us a bunch of loose change out the window and hooted and hollered as she drove by.
I was just about out of songs. It'd probably been a couple hours. My accomplice was sweating. We'd made a good, small haul. So we decided it was time to call it. My buddy wanted to go see if he could get a bath and a bed for the night. He suggested splitting up the earnings. I told him it was all his. He was speechless and profoundly grateful. He conveyed to me that he would have never expected such generosity from a foreigner and repeatedly thanked me. I told him that it was my pleasure, and he earned it. He has talent, and he has heart. We soaked in the moment, our souls throbbing to the echo of our music. It was now dusk and he had to run to see if he could get that bed. We hugged and parted ways with a warm sense about ourselves and faith in humanity and each other.
If you ever see a curly-headed, bright-eyed kid beat-boxing on the streets of Curitiba, hear him out and perhaps buy him lunch. You'll be glad you did.