So after we'd finished shooting I offered to buy him dinner. He introduced me to a great new restaurant and while there I got to talk with Jerry and get to know him better -- what a cool and interesting guy.
Jerry is from Columbus, Mississippi and is 55 years old. He served in the first Gulf War, and while there had the impact of a hand grenade blow him off the roof of a building that was thirty foot high. This left him in a coma for three months and in need of having his rib cage and shoulder blade reconstructed. I ask him what his opinion was of both that war and the most recent war in the middle east. He thought about it for a few seconds and then said, "You know, I really don't know. I just feel for the kids that get sent over there. I'd serve again though." He was in the Army for twelve years and was a Staff Sergeant when he got out of the military.
He moved to Atlanta due to there being more opportunity here for him as a musician, and also for the VA hospital in town. He recently has been having issues with his heart and blood pressure he told me. He currently is a Atlanta based busker, which is how I met him. You can read about that here. The dude can play and sing. He started playing guitar as a kid, and told me he actually would break into the church when he was around fourteen, just to play the piano. That's where it all got started for me he told me -- in church. I asked him who some of his favorite musicians were, and without a seconds hesitation he said, Jimi Hendrix! He then added that he was a big fan of Buddy Guy, Robert Johnson, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. I ask him what his advice was for any aspiring musicians out there, and he simply replied with: "If you wanna make your living at it, you got to work overtime." I think that applies to any creative field.
I then ask him what is the one thing he would want people to take from reading this blog post and he said:
"One thing that has always gotten me by is humility -- being humble to people. That is what Jesus taught. Being humble has always gotten me by, and I thank God for given me a heart like that. So my advice to people is to be humble."
|I shot this one with my iPhone as we were talking and waiting for our food.|
In the past week I have spoken to and had Jerry on my mind a good bit. I feel I was put in a position to help him out, and have been doing my best to do just that -- within reason. Jerry seems to be a good guy. He's well spoken, and he is -- well -- humble. He has been nothing but respectful to me, even when I didn't tell him what he wanted to hear. And let me clarify -- in my previous post about him I said he was homeless -- I've learned since then that Jerry is not actually homeless. He is between established residences due to the health issues he has had, but he is staying at a "bunk house" where he pays a set amount each week to have a room, use of the showers, kitchen, etc. He is no different than any of the rest of us that are trying to make it through life in these tough economical times. He is no different than those of us that are trying to make a living doing something we feel we were put on this earth to do. He is not just out on the street asking for a handout -- he is performing -- that is his job. He is a busker. He is a musician. He is a human-being. Please treat him like one if you ever happen to run into him out playing on the streets of Atlanta. That five or ten dollar bill that's crumbled up in your pocket may mean very little to you -- but it just might mean the world to somebody like, Jerry.
Edit: If you live in the Atlanta area, Jerry will be playing outside the Midtown Flying Biscuit from 10:00 am till 2:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays through the end of the summer he told me. Please go by, enjoy his music, and throw a few dollars his way.