It was errand day. My list was filled with the mundane: groceries, Thanksgiving supplies, gift shopping, returns. But because the gifts would be fun to buy and the stores would be full of fresh holiday cheer, I was glad to be out. And I couldn’t resist treating myself to a chocolate frappucino.

My last errand complete, I walked out of Target into the clear chilly day and heard the sound of music in the parking lot. The store doesn’t normally play music outdoors, so I figured it must be live.

How nice, I thought. The shopping center was creating a festive atmosphere for early holiday shoppers like me. It reminded me of last year when I heard a male soloist singing Christmas carols at an outdoor mall.

But rather than singing, this was violin music, and it was amplified so it could be heard over the sound of cars pulling in and out. The violinist had set up her equipment along the curb of one of the aisles in the parking lot. Though I didn’t recognize the song, the music she made was beautiful. The bright fall air was filled with it.

I decided to leave a tip in her violin case as a thank you. I love to hear live musicians bringing beauty to unexpected places, like shopping centers, airports, and train stations.

As I got closer, I saw a hand-lettered sign on crumpled cardboard propped up on her equipment. And before I even read those first words, “Single mom…”, I realized she had not been hired by the shopping center, or Target, or anyone else. She was homeless, or at least struggling financially, and it dawned on me that she could very well be playing for her dinner—or her children’s.

My heart sank.

Dropping my bags off in the car, I found some cash in my wallet and a notepad on the front seat. Quickly, I wrote a few words thanking her for her gift of music and telling her Jesus loves her and then wrapped the note around the money.

As I approached, she kept playing, her eyes downcast. She had a beautiful face, with long black hair and long eyelashes.

Another woman was stopping, pulling a couple of dollars out of her wallet. Smiling at the violinist, we dropped our gifts into her bag. She nodded but played on, her head down and her eyes wet.

Even though I wanted to say something, I didn’t interrupt her music but went back to my car. Feeling that I should have written more or given more, I drove home, praying for her and her children.

How long would she stay there? I wondered. Would other people tip her, or would they ignore her? Would they judge her? Would she earn enough to make a difference for her family?

And what if she wasn’t homeless? It didn’t matter to me; that was between her and God. What did matter was noticing her and thanking her for creating beauty in a busy parking lot on a random Monday morning.

Giving a few dollars to someone who’s struggling seems like a small thing when the needs of the world are so great. But maybe a note from a stranger encouraged that violinist and pointed her to the Giver of all good things—who is Himself the biggest gift of all.


Freelance writer and speaker LeAnne Martin looks for the beauty around us and encourages others to do the same. Through her words and pictures, she shares glimpses of beauty in nature, the arts, and the unexpected on her blog, Glimsen. Sign up to receive her weekly posts, and you’ll get a free gift of beauty in your inbox. You can also connect with LeAnne on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. LeAnne lives with her husband and dog in a wooded neighborhood outside Atlanta and looks forward to FaceTiming her daughter in college.