Thursday, May 21, 2009

Changing the world one song at a time.

While walking down the street in New Orleans’ French Quarter, a friend and I walked by an elderly gentleman sitting on the corner smiling and greeting all the passersby. We acknowledged each other with hello and kept walking. Then I thought ‘he looks familiar’ and asked the friend I was with "Have you seen the video on YouTube of people singing Stand By Me? I could swear that man was in the video."

We turned around, walked right back and sure enough, I was right and that is how I met Grandpa Elliott. But that is just the beginning of the story.

Grandpa Elliott is a fixture, a personality in the neighborhood. Not everyone knows his name, but most seem to know who he is and on what corner he can be found. Spend a few minutes with him and you will quickly understand why.

I am guessing that he is in his sixties, maybe older. He has a full, bushy, white beard, a "jolly" physique, and wears glasses (Really just frames. There are no lenses.) that don't hide the twinkle in his eyes, or the fact that he is blind. He wears a funny, misshapen hat and a grin that you know is genuine and constant. Grandpa Elliott is happy man.

In a matter of seconds you are very engaged in conversation with this very charming and caring man. He wants to know about you and is ready to tell stories of his own life too. Whether talking about himself or you, the conversation quickly turns to song and he wants you to sing too. Don’t know the lyrics? He will start another song right away and before you know it, you are sitting on a street corner singing and laughing with your new friend.

I hope that everyone will take a moment to watch the YouTube video featuring Grandpa Elliott. The message is clear: We are one people, living together on one planet. When we remember that, we make it a better world.

I am certain that the memories of my meeting Grandpa Elliott will last a long time. More importantly, the lessons to be learned can last a lifetime. What is that lesson? That we can all make this world a better place one smile, one hello or one song at a time.

It turns out that I am not the first person to discover and appreciate Grandpa Elliot. If you go to and search for Grandpa Elliot, you will find dozens of entries including one with me. OY!

Make today a great day for you and for someone else. Smile and say hello. Singing is optional.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.


  1. Michael,

    YOU made me smile today. Thank you!!

  2. Michael, are you a baritone? Whatever, you have a lovely voice. (too bad you didn't know all the words! lol) What a lovely memory of your vacation in New Orleans.

  3. Michael: A star is born! I smiled ear to ear the entire 3 minutes and 46 seconds.