Hello friends! So glad you are following along with the Letters to Ben story! If you missed Chapter 1, you'll want to get caught up before you read this post... Click here to read Chapter 1!
“I’m Ben” he said, shaking my hand and still smiling at me. I couldn't help but to mirror his grin and reply with my own name. His offer to help unload my piano was barely out of his mouth before the big heavy bag was in his hand. What I could hardly manage, he lifted easily with one hand and I followed him through the gate and on to the little stage. Though he didn’t know it, I snapped a picture and later sent it to my friends, joking about my “security boyfriend”.
I had some time before I was scheduled to play and since I was all set up, there was nothing for me to do but stand around and chat with this attractive, charming and captivating man...or at least there was nothing else I wanted to do. Though he was working, security at a Christian music festival doesn’t tend to be too intense, so we just stood there at the gate getting to know each other. Conversation was easy, laughs were plentiful, and always those big smiles, eyes sparkling at each other.
Ben was very open with me and he made it easy for me to be open too. Somehow within less than an hour of meeting we knew quite a lot about each other. My heart sank when he told me he was from Ontario but living in British Columbia, working to turn his life around. He’d lived many years in a lifestyle that was foreign to me - substance abuse, addiction, and getting into all kinds of trouble. His personal situation was also kind of complicated. In my experience with meeting men, these would have been pretty big red flags...but this wasn’t some guy on a dating app, this was real life. Though it was clear right from this point that the situation was impossible, I was so drawn to him and it seemed possible that he felt the same way about me.
I had been on my own for a few years at that point, following a toxic and emotionally abusive few years of marriage and subsequent divorce. I had lived through things I never anticipated I would have to. But I was stronger and wiser for it and I didn't let it crush me. Beauty and purpose was born out of my trauma and heartache as I turned my pain into songs. We were two people who had been burned by very different fires, but burned nonetheless. There is a depth of understanding when you encounter another who has also known deep pain.
When the time came for my set, I got up on the little stage knowing that Ben couldn't see me (his security post was at the gate close by but not in view of the stage) but that he could hear me. This thought both comforted me and made me nervous. As I began my set, the weather turned and the wind pummelled the little stage. There were times where it felt like the breath was taken right out of me and it was quite challenging to continue. There was a small but supportive crowd standing around the stage, even in the wind and the few raindrops that had started to fall. As the small indie stage sets were scheduled between the main stage acts, there were plenty of people walking by, stopping to listen to a song or two, and carrying on their way. I sold a couple of CDs after and chatted with a few people, including a sweet little girl who nervously came to tell me she liked my singing after her Dad assured her that it would be ok.
I loved the experience. I always do. Singing for people is when I feel most alive. I have learned over the years that it isn't about the spotlight or the attention of a big crowd (though I do love the spotlight...). It is about the personal connection. It is about seeing the impact in the eyes of one person, or meeting one sweet little girl who just might be dreaming of singing her own songs on a stage someday. When it was time to clear my piano off the stage again, there were a couple other people around who offered to help me. It didn't seem very polite to decline in the hopes that Ben would come and help me again, so I thanked them as they (two of them...haha) carried my piano to my car for me. When we passed through the gate, Ben made a joke about how his job had been taken. After clearing the stage, I went to talk with Ben again and he told me that he really enjoyed my set, and that even though he couldn't see me he had been listening attentively. I knew it was true.
As the sun sank down and the air grew positively frigid, I huddled under a blanket and a borrowed rain poncho with a warmth in my heart that the cold air and rain couldn't steal. I took in the last couple of artists of the night on the main stage with a friend that I had run into earlier in the day. As I passed through the gate to head to my car and on to the hotel for the night, I tried to catch Ben’s eye but with so many people, I couldn’t. Though we had spent a great deal of time talking before and after my performance (and every time I invented a new reason to go back through the gate to my car just so I could walk by him again), I hadn't asked him if he would be working at the same gate the next day. I hoped that he would be there and that I’d be able to see him.