The following edited story is entitled “The Sparrow at Starbucks.”
It was chilly November evening in Manhattan but warm inside the Starbucks near Times Square. For a musician, it’s the most lucrative Starbucks location in the world. The tips can be substantial if you play your tunes right for those who want to keep warm.
Apparently, we were striking all the right chords, because our basket was almost overflowing. I was playing keyboard and singing backup for my friend. We mostly sang pop songs from the ‘40s to the ‘90s with a few original tunes thrown in.
During our emotional rendition of the classic, “If You Don’t Know Me by Now,” I noticed a lady sitting in a lounge chair across from me. She was swaying to the beat and singing along. After the tune was over, she approached me. “I apologize for singing along on that song. Did it bother you?” she asked.
“No,” I replied. “We love it when the audience joins in. Would you like to sing up front on the next selection?” To my delight, she accepted my invitation. “You choose,” I said. “What do you want to sing?”
“Do you know any hymns?” Hymns? This woman didn’t know whom she was dealing with. Before I was born, I was going to church. I gave our guest singer a knowing look. “Name one.”
“There are so many good ones. You pick one.”
“OK,” I replied. “How about ‘His Eye is on the Sparrow’?”
My new friend became silent; her eyes turned away. Then she fixed her eyes on mine again and said, “Yeah. Let’s do that one.” She put down her purse, straightened her jacket and faced the center of the shop. With my two-bar setup, she began to sing, “Why should I be discouraged? Why should the shadows come?”
The audience of coffee drinkers was spellbound. Even the gurgling noises of the cappuccino machine ceased as the employees stopped what they were doing to listen. The song rose to its conclusion. “I sing because I’m happy; I sing because I’m free. For his eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.”
After she sung the last note, the applause crescendoed to a deafening roar. Embarrassed, the woman tried to shout over the crowd, “I didn’t come in here to do a concert! I came in here to get something to drink, like you!” I embraced my new friend and said, “That was beautiful!”
“Well, it’s funny that you picked that particular hymn,” she said. “Why is that?”
She hesitated again, “That was my daughter’s favorite song.”
“Really!” I exclaimed. “Yes,” she said, and then grabbed my hands. “She was 16. She died of a brain tumor last week.”
“Are you going to be OK?” She smiled through tear-filled eyes and squeezed my hands. “I’m going to be OK. I’ve just got to keep trusting the Lord and singing his songs, and everything’s going to be just fine.” She picked up her bag, gave me her card, and left.
Was it just a coincidence that we happened to be singing in that particular coffee shop on that particular November night? Was it just a coincidence that this wonderful lady just happened to walk into that particular shop and I just happened to pick her deceased daughter’s favorite hymn? I do think so.
God has been arranging encounters in human history since the beginning of time, and it’s no stretch for me to imagine that he could reach into a coffee shop in midtown Manhattan and turn an ordinary gig into a revival. It was a great reminder that, if we keep trusting him and singing his songs, everything is going to be OK.