MacElroy Plays the Piano

On Saturday, I was on my way to the High Museum with my daughter when I heard music that sounded like it was being piped through the speakers. But the High Museum doesn't usually have music playing outside. A voice in my head said, "Go find out where that music is coming from." We walked around and finally turned a corner into an alley between buildings. There we saw a man playing a piano. 

He said his name is MacElroy. He told us that he is homeless. I asked him how he learned to play so well. 

"I taught myself to play when I was a boy."

I asked him if I could give him a tip for playing for us. He took the money I handed him and then said he would sing for us. "I'm not a very good singer, " he said.

He played a few more songs and drew a small crowd that stood a few yards away.

My daughter was freezing, so we needed to go inside. But I wanted to give him something more than money. "Can I give you a hug?" I asked.

He immediately leaned in and hugged both my daughter and me so tightly. 

The next day, as I was leaving for church, I put on my coat. I could still smell him. The slight smell of homelessness. I thought about wearing a different coat...but then I realized that it would remind me to pray for him. 

And it did. With every breath, I was reminded to pray for MacElroy. "God, send him what he really needs." "And how can I help? What else should I do - not just for him but for others who need something."

The scent was a reminder of his humanity. His value. And a reminder that I need to continue to ask - 

What can I do in this moment where I am with what I have been given?

Meredith M Howard is a photographer who lives in Atlanta, Georgia.  She was inspired to start THE STREETS magazine after many conversations with strangers in downtown Atlanta.