This story is told by one of two college musicians who decided that a good part-time job would be singing on the street in Times Square. So each evening they would go down to Manhattan and set up their instruments just outside the Starbucks on 51st Street and Broadway. On this particular Saturday, it was chilly outside but warm inside the Starbucks Coffee Shop. The early November weather in New York City holds only the slightest hint of the bitter chill of late December and January, but it’s enough to send the masses crowding indoors to get in line for the available space and warmth and hot coffee.

Most street musicians know it’s the most lucrative Starbucks location in the world, and the tips can be substantial if they play their tunes right. Apparently, on this evening, they were striking all the right chords because their basket was almost overflowing. It was a fun, low-pressure performance, one was playing keyboard and singing backup for his friend who also added rhythm with an arsenal of percussion instruments. They sang mostly pop songs from the ’40s to the ’90s with a few original tunes thrown in. During their emotional rendition of the classic, “If You Don’t Know Me by Now,” one of them noticed a lady sitting in a chair across from them. She was swaying to the beat and singing along.

After the tune was over, she approached them. “I apologize for singing along on that song,” she said. “Did it bother you?” she asked. “No,” they replied. “We love it when the audience joins in. Would you like to sing up front on the next selection?” To their delight, she accepted their invitation. “You choose the song,” they said. “What are you in the mood to sing?” “Well…. do you know any hymns?” she asked.

Hymns? This woman didn’t know who she was talking to. Before one of them was even born, he was going to church! He gave the guest singer a knowing look. “Name one,” he offered. “Oh, I don’t know. There are so many good ones. You pick one,” she told him.

“Okay,” he replied. “How about His Eye is on the Sparrow?” The lady just stood there in silence as she looked away. Then she turned and looked him straight in the eye and said, “Yeah, okay. Let’s do that one.” She slowly put down her purse, straightened her jacket and faced the center of the shop. With a two-bar setup, she began to sing in a beautiful soprano voice, “Why should I be discouraged? Why should the shadows come?” The audience of coffee drinkers were transfixed. Even the gurgling noises of the cappuccino machine ceased as the employees stopped what they were doing to listen. The song rose to its conclusion. “I sing because I’m happy; I sing because I’m free. For His eye is on the sparrow And I know He watches me.”

When the last note was sung, the applause crescendoed to a deafening roar that would have rivaled a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall. Embarrassed, the woman tried to shout over the noise, “Oh, y’all go back to your coffee! I didn’t come in here to do a concert! I just came in here to get something to drink, just like you!” But the ovation continued. The musician who picked the hymn reached out and embraced his new friend. “You, my dear, have made my whole year! That was beautiful!” he told her.

“Well, it’s funny that you picked that particular hymn,” she said. “Why is that?” he inquired. “Well…” she hesitated again, “that was my daughter’s favorite song.” “Really!” he exclaimed. “Yes,” she said, and then grabbed his hands. By this time, the applause had subsided and it was business as usual… “My daughter was sixteen, she died of a brain tumor last week.”

He said the first thing that found its way through his stunned silence. “Are you going to be okay? he asked. She smiled through tear-filled eyes and squeezed his hands. “I’m going to be okay,” she replied, I’ve just got to keep trusting the Lord and singing His songs, and everything’s going be just fine.” She picked up her bag, gave him her card, and then she was gone.

Was it just a coincidence that they happened to be singing in that particular coffee shop on that particular November evening? Was it happenstance that this wonderful lady just happened to walk into that particular shop? Was it by pure chance that of all the hymns to choose from, he just happened to pick the very hymn that was the favorite of her daughter, who died just the week before? He refused to believe it.

God has been arranging encounters like this in human history since the beginning of time, and it’s no stretch for anyone to imagine that God could reach into a coffee shop in midtown Manhattan and turn an ordinary gig into a revival. It was a great reminder that if we keep trusting God and singing the songs that honor Him, everything’s going to be okay.

Some may call this incident a case of good luck, karma, fate, coincidence, or being in the right place at the right time. That might seem reasonable if you are talking about one person’s fortune. But three people, coming from different directions, meeting on the same night, at a particular spot in one of the largest cities in the world, knowing the same song? No! As every believer knows, God often operates this way. Just think of Jesus meeting the lady at Jacob’s Well in Samaria.1 That wasn’t happenstance. That was by divine appointment. So when something like this happens to you, don’t give fate or luck the praise, give God the praise because He’s the One in charge of your destiny. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

1John 4:1-25

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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