Tonight brought me one of the most profound moments in my life. Probably the greatest expression of giving I have ever witnessed.
Tonight I went to see a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band at the Warren Amphitheater in Warren Ohio. The name of the band was Vicious Cycle and they were really good. The music was tight and the vocals were right on. But that was not the real thing that impressed me so.
You see, the thing that stood out tonight was how giving the crowd was. Now… let me explain. Warren Ohio is union country. Warren lives and dies with the GM plant just a couple of miles away called Lordstown.
Lately it has been more die than live with over 17% unemployment. This factory town has been hit hard with many people now reaching the end of their unemployment and struggling to get retrained and back into the workforce.
I have cousins who started working at the Lordstown GM plant thirty years ago when they where 18. My uncle has been an electrician for them for well over fifty years so I have roots and more importantly I know how hard the economy has hit this area.
So imagine this scene. It is bike night at the Warren Amphitheater and Viscous Cycle starts to play their first set. During their first break they meet a lady and her two young boys who lost their Dad in a motorcycle accident the night before. Heartbreaking to say the least.
When the band comes back out the lead singer brings the family on stage and introduces them to the crowd of over five thousand people. He tells their story and asks for everyone to hold their lighter in the air in tribute to the families loss.
The place lit up like a firecracker. Hundreds of lighters shining through the night in tribute their fallen brother. It was a sight to see. But it gets better.
Someone from the crowd suggests that the band take up a collection for the now widowed wife and children. So the lead singer says “anyone who would like to help this family out please throw your donation on the stage and the kids will collect it after the next two songs are over”.
Remember, this crowd is dressed in “wife beater” t-shirts and yesterdays clothes. A typical blue collar town that has been hit hard by recession. A couple of beers and a good unfiltered Pall Mall and you have a good night out. But there is something inside these people goes well beyond the first glance that burns brighter than the northern star and something that will stay with me forever.
After the two songs were finished there had to be $10,000 in cash laying on the stage. A stream of willing givers, an endless line of people made their way to the stage to throw in their donation. One by one they reached deep into their wallets to give tomorrow’s meal or Mondays cigarette money to this family they just met and will most likely never see again.
It was one of the most profound experiences of my life. People who could not afford to give were giving in droves to a family they never met. These people are the backbone of our society. Thank God for that. They taught me a big lesson in giving tonight.
As I struggle to pay for my cushy $200k house and earn my nice income to put my kids through a nice school, I know in my heart I would never see this level of giving in the community I live. It just isn’t there. Social climbing and clawing your way up the corporate ladder all sound nice but it is all about you, not your neighbor.
That is when I came to the realization, as hard as it may be to swallow, I was raised on the right side of the tracks but have strayed to the wrong side of the tracks. I think it is time go back home to the values that gave me the foundation I was raised on. …. I think it’s time to go back to the right side of the tracks.