A story is non-rhetorical. It's not looking for an answer. It's just looking to be spread. Jesse James Cameron
He is, a singer, song-writer, poet, musician, soul-ful and soul-felt traveller on the road of life. He isn't very old. Mid-twenties. But he's wise. Bigtime wise. He is big. Big body. Big voice. Big personality.
His name is Jesse James Cameron. He's part of Makeshift Innocence, a local band that has played venues all across Canada. Jazz. Blues. Jazz/rock/rap fusion.
I met him a year ago at The Beach, a recording studio here in town. He'd turned up to participate in the recording of the DIs (the homeless shelter where I work) recording of Stand by Me.
He was a bit intimidating. Tattoo's spiral up his arms. He's gregarious. Out-going. Uninhibited. He loves to laugh. To play practical jokes. He talks fast. Moves fast. Does everything as if there's no time to lose. Life is moving fast and he is moving with it. Gathering up every bit of passion and love and joy and spreading it where ever he goes, in everything he does, in every song he writes and sings and plays.
And, he loves to give back to the community.
I was reminded of Jesse's big personality and equally big heart yesterday when I spent the day with the videographer with whom I'm working to put together a documentary on the shelter. When we were recording Stand by Me, we interviewed the various musicians and technicians and staff who came out to lend a hand.
Yesterday, the first interview we watched was Jesse's. And we were moved. Touched. Inspired.
During his interview Jesse tells the story of having run away from home at the ripe old age of 13. "It's what this song [Stand by Me] means to me," he said during his interview. "It's a pillar in the music world which means it's something we can all lean on. It holds us up because the whole song is about being comforted, supported. And we all need that."
His grandmother was the reason he got off the streets. She gave him a guitar in his teens and he's never put it down since. "She endured some pretty bad music but it's because of that guitar I became the man who I am now."
And he's quite a man. Warm and loving. Whenever I've seen him at a concert, or run into him on the street, he makes me feel like I am the only person in the room. He makes me feel special. As he makes everyone he meets feel special.
As I watched the footage of Jesse's interview yesterday, I was reminded of what makes this young man so special. During the interview I ask him questions about his singing. About why he's helping with the recording of Stand by Me.
"Everyone seems to think homeless people are criminals or addicts. But they're not all delinquents. Sure there are a few and some people do bad things. But most aren't like that. They're just people in bad situations. In the wrong places at the wrong times."
And then, he tells the story of walking along St. Hubert Street in Montreal a couple of years after his own escape from street life. "I see this guy sitting on the sidewalk pan-handling," he says, "and I sit down beside him to chat."
Jesse isn't shy. Nor is he afraid of anyone. He is curious. Inquisitive. And kind. "I wanted to understand what had led him there," he said. "I mean, I was 13 when I hit the street and I got off. I was young. I wanted to understand what it was that kept him there."
Jesse asked to understand and the man wanted to share his story. "He told me some crazy stories about how he became what he was in that moment and it was sad. He wasn't a bad guy. Just in a lot of tough situations. He talked. I listened."
After three or four hours of listening, Jesse got up and dug in his pocket and found all the money he had with him. Ten bucks.
"I handed the money to the dude and he pushed my hand away."
In the interview, tears are visible in Jesse's eyes. His voice grows soft.
The man wouldn't take his money. "You've given me something I've never had before," said the man. "No one's ever taken the time to hear what I have to say. Nobody's ever cared enough to listen."
Jesse pauses. Catches his breath.
"A story is non-rhetorical," said Jesse. "It's not looking for an answer. It's just looking to be spread. Close your mouth. Open your ears and you'll hear the truth behind people's stories."
A story is non-rhetorical.
Powerful. Provocative. Passionate.
That's Jesse James Cameron.
And those are his words.
A story is non-rhetorical. It's not looking for an answer. It's just looking to be spread.
Today, may we spread stories that speak to strength and hope and love and courage. May our stories spread wings. May they be the breath of God whispering in the hearts of everyone we meet, of every life we touch. May our stories ripple out into the world to create wonder and joy, beauty and truth.
Makeshift Innocence -- Jesse James Cameron (note -- the music starts after she goes out door)