His Name Was Duane

It seemed like any other Sunday night, albeit a little slow. Okay…VERY slow. It was Mother’s Day but the restaurant was drastically slow unlike the day before. I figured that everyone and their moms (literally and figuratively speaking) chose to come in the day before.

I looked at the time displayed on the cashier/menu screen and it told me that I had about 30 minutes until it was time to close up. The place was empty, and my waitress-self told me that my job was done.

Then came Duane.

From the moment I saw him, I felt an instant connection. As one of the few Americanized, non-Taiwanese workers, a part of me always rejoiced whenever an “atypical” (that is, non-Mandarin-speaking) customer came in to order something. It didn’t help that whenever a gueilo (as we Cantonese would call them) came in, the boss lady always had me talk to them as though they’d order in the most complicated, foreign dialogue.

He was pretty tall, slightly muscular in build and had a hair full of long dreads. In looks and attitude, he seemed like a super-chill person, but throughout our conversation, I had a feeling that my peeps thought otherwise. At one point, R.L. butt into our conversation, rather cautiously behind me, asking me in Mandarin if I liked talking to this customer. I sensed that he and perhaps others wanted this customer out so that they could close soon. Or perhaps they weren’t comfortable with him. I couldn’t blame them…the sad fact is that I imagine my parents would react similarly.

…Anyway, this customer first asked me what time it was and explained that he just came from out of state. Since we had Internet, he ordered a drink and two snacks so that he could use our it since the place he was staying didn’t have any.

Unfortunately, the wifi ended up not working for him, but it was a very uplifting conversation that we had.

I asked him where he came from after he ordered and he told me that he came from South America (forgot specifically where). I thought his English was superb for a foreigner, but then I learned that he was actually Canadian (from Toronto). He was a traveling musician.

The indie-music-loving side of me exploded. I started asking about his music, his style and his life as a traveling musician. I got more excited when I learned that a lot of his funds went back to the Central American music school he started. If he didn’t see the sparkle in my eyes, I’m pretty sure he (and my peeps) heard the ecstatic edge in my voice. This man was living my dream job…AND he was doing it for children!

My first response to his life description was an understated, “Wow, that’s quite a calling.” I asked what he played and he said he started playing guitar early on in church. A few lines into our conversation, I just had to ask, “I hope you don’t mind me by asking, but are you Christian?” He smiled and said yes, and I couldn’t help but blurt back, “Me too! Now I REALLY want to support you!” I realized how weird it sounded, but he just chuckled at my weirdness, saying it was “funny.” Regrettably, he didn’t have any CD’s with him, but upon my request, he left me more info about his music and ministry.

He asked if I was a musician because I apparently “looked” the part, but I confessed to being a newby-of-several-years in guitar. He then gave me the following advice:

  1. JUST PICK IT UP. He asked if I kept it in a case, and then told me to keep it out of its case. When I admitted that it was in a case in my closet, he suggested to keep it by my bedside, and even play it until I fall asleep (apparently, he used to do that).

  2. PRACTICE EVERY DAY. Try for at least 5 minutes, then slowly move up. It all adds up, and a few minutes a day beats a 3-hour drill once a week.

I thanked him for the advice and we parted ways when he couldn’t connect to the Internet and I had to start cleaning up.

Although a slow day, Duane made my day. Even now, I still consider that one of those significant, uplifting moments in meeting a stranger. Like the man at Panera Bread a while back. Like the man in Vegas who, while waiting for his wife to do something, helped my grandfather lift up my mom’s rental and change its spare tire, even offering his own carlifter tool when my mom’s was no good.

There are good people in this world, doing great things. We focus on the negative because bad things make good stories, but there are also lots of good things that happen. Good things as small as just a simple, kind gesture or a talk with a stranger.

Thanks, Duane, for being yet another good reminder of some of the good things and good people in this world. God bless you and the work and music you do. You have no idea how much you’ve inspired me to live for what really matters, and to use the passions and interests God gave me for His grand purpose…and that, I admit, I am still trying to learn.

If anyone’s interested in checking out Duane’s music (it has a reggae and acoustic sound to it)…


2012-05-26, 10:42PM