John Chee is an incredible guitarist that seems to have been born with one foot in New Orleans and the other in Chicago. His godparents must be connected to Eric Clapton and Joe Satriani. To my knowledge, none of this is true. He is simply a man who loves music, performing, and being a part of the Blues.
As I sat with him recently, I found myself trying to describe my feelings about his music. As he responded with a quiet thank-you that was barely audible, John went on to remind me that it was the connection with the audience that made everything work. “Music is more than just musicians. It is connecting, sharing, and experiencing the best and worst of life as one. The circle is only complete when we are together.”
It was only later that I realized he has paraphrased a definition – “to suffer together with”. Traditionally I associate compassion with sorrow and pain, yet it is more. I realized as another put his arm around me and thanked me in advance for the photo essay I was going to shoot, that was suffer together with was another way of expressing the heart of the blues. We live in the reality of life’s gifts, in its sorrow and pain, in its rebirth and in hope. We live in this reality with one another. We need each other in order for the story to be complete.
My definition of compassion continues to expand as I think of their words and gifts. A writer once made the following comment; “all kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people!” (1 Corinthians 12.8) While I cannot comment on the rest of their life, I can tell the story I saw unfold in connection between musician and audience.
There are wells of compassion waiting for us in the course of everyday. Life has many sources of help, even in times of distress and uncertainty. The invitation is open for us to be a refreshing well. We can suffer together with others.