Provide Opportunities For The Extraordinary

From Steve McAllister


Sarasota made national news last week thanks to a simple video that revealed one of our homeless citizens actually has talent. Due to the viral video of Donald "Boone" Gould playing one of the pianos adorning our downtown sidewalks, Sarasota's homeless situation once again stepped into the spotlight.

With the video in question receiving millions of views, and a series of spin-off videos produced by ABC, CNN, Inside Edition and other outlets, Donald Gould received over $35,000 through a crowd-funding campaign, a full-ride scholarship to finish his college degree, a virtual reunion with his estranged son, the opportunity for rehab and a promise of a better life should he live up to the expectations his newfound notoriety thrust upon him. Nevertheless, Gould has not escaped the scrutiny that befalls everyone who enjoys meteoric rise to fame, nor that which comes from helping homeless individuals who acquired their lifestyle through bad choices.

Of course, the majority of scrutiny bubbling up through social media networks, a breeding ground for misbegotten schadenfreude where meticulously ill-informed citizens spew vitriol, ranges from professional musicians green with envy over Donald's sudden rise to stardom to people with little better to do than point out the character defects of others. Along with the surge of critics are those who think a poverty-stricken man with unknown talent is some sort of rare miracle, mixed with those who wish the attention and currency gushed onto Mr. Gould could be shared with the rest of the homeless community. Yet beyond the myriad of flailing opinions, we are left with the realization everyone has greater value than what we see on the surface.

Many individuals, both homeless and housed, have played those out-of-tune pianos like virtuosos, yet will never receive the good fortune of a viral video and more than 15 minutes of fame. Many may not possess artistic abilities at all, but underneath their personal fallibilities and internal demonic wrestling matches still exude unheralded skills in benevolent listening, unflinching compassion or a myriad of other wonderful traits often missed in quick judgments and rash critiques.

This freakish lightning bolt of attention generated the ability for one of our 1,000-plus homeless to receive a second chance. The question is how we create more opportunities for each of our citizens to embrace their talents, both astounding and banal, and be appreciated for the human beings they are beyond the examples of perfection we think they should be. It is a wonderful we made pianos available for musical miracles to occur, but what other opportunities are we capable of providing to challenge people to rise up and momentarily become the best versions of themselves? People will come together to help one they deem extraordinary. How do we realize each of us is extraordinary in our own way and encourage those who have fallen short of their greatness to embrace it and thus be embraced by society once again?

The question is not whether Mr. Gould should be appreciated for his musical prowess in spite of his addictions and role as a deadbeat dad, but how we develop a community where people can be greatly appreciated for the gifts they have so they can be empowered to overcome their fallibilities. Regardless of Donald Gould’s mistakes, hardships or shortcomings, this opportunity has given him another chance. Our task is to provide the opportunity for resurrection to as many as we possibly can. That is how we can deftly find our way out of this crisis of culture.

Steve McAllister is the author of How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld, host of Renaissance SRQ on WSLR and producer of the Home Free Project

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