We All Have A Unique Gift To Offer With Singer John Vincent
We All Have A Unique Gift To Offer With Singer John Vincent
The American Dream is unique to us all. For some it’s about wealth. For others it’s about being a parent, or pursuing any other passion that fulfills us even though wealth is not attached.
For John Vincent, the American Dream is all about existing in peace.
Surprise registers in John’s voice as he recalls getting the special request.
At first he was surprised that the Chicago Police Department’s 19th district asked him to do a weekly performance in various locations throughout the city. Not in restaurants or clubs or at Wrigley Field, where he usually performs, but right out in the middle of the street.
John also surprised himself by saying yes, because he suffers from severe OCD.
His obsessive-compulsive behavior kicked into high gear in John’s teen years. Specifically, John has an overdeveloped fear of germs. He is hyper vigilant about hand-washing and everything he touches. The pandemic has had a major impact on his mental health, which is impacting his physical health.
Self-isolating in a friend’s apartment while his own home undergoes repairs, John settles his nerves, in part, by eating. His anxiety level is through the roof, and he struggles to manage the fear exacerbated by the onslaught of negative news.
His first instinct was to decline the request. But, he says, he thought about his friends in the police and fire departments. He thought of nurses and members of the military, and all the amazing people out there helping others. If they are out there giving of themselves, he thought, he can too.
So every week for several weeks during the mandatory quarantine period, John sets up under the protective eye of Chicago’s Finest, and belts out one nostalgic hit from icons of the past after another. The videos show a handful of curious onlookers outside watching him prepare, and then apartment balconies filling with people enjoying the surprise performance.
At least, most people enjoy it, John Vincent laughs.
There was one man in a nursing home, he says through a smile, who first attempted to shoo him away through a window. When John sang anyway, the man gave him a one-fingered salute and stormed away from the window others flocked to.
A sense of humor comes in handy, John Vincent says. Empathy does too.“When you have more empathy for other people, life starts getting fun,” – John VincentClick To Tweet
He loves his free street performances for the joy they bring to his surprised audiences. He loves the free talks he does for schools because he see the powerful impact they have on students. Kids like him who have endured relentless bullying and harassment from others, connect with his message of strength and hope. Kids who are the aggressors take the opportunity he offers to apologize and commit to kindness from that moment forward.
Teachers and parents thank him for the difference he makes, and John finds more peace with what he’s been through, and where he is now.
He’s come a long way from the child who chose not to use his size and strength to fight back when attacked. That child chose outward peace that had a nearly lethal toll on his inner peace. By the time he was a teenager, still physically capable of winning a fight and still choosing not to – not even on the football field, where he simply didn;t have the heart to throw his weight into tackling an opponent – John turned the anger inward even more. Eventually that anger built to a point that could not be contained and he turned, in his own words, into an “asshole.”
He went so far as attempting suicide one night, and looks back on those times in somberness now, grateful for the lessons he’s learned.
“I didn’t have happiness in my heart,” he says. Even when he was discovered singing, and asked to be the official national anthem singer for the Chicago Cubs, he was sensitive to keyboard warriors mocking his performance.
The word “free” has a special meaning for John. He was raised on stories from his parents and grandparents that taught him how precious freedom is. His father was kicked out of his home by the Nazis and lived in a barn, instead. A Nazi held a gun to his grandmother’s head and threatened to kill her. She was forced to feed her family with the carcasses of diseased horses the Nazis buried, and which starving people risked their lives to sneak out and dig up. His father was only about 9 years old when he saw a person killed right in front of him, and on and on the stories go, says John, all serving to hammer home the gratitude he has for living in a country where he is free from such Evil.
All those emotions flood him each time he performs the anthem. One day he got stuck on the note as he sang “free.” He held it a second or two longer as his emotions led him too, and the crowd loved it. Then next time he held it again, and the response grew, leading him to extend the note a little longer until now it lasts several seconds. It’s become his signature and it’s special to him, but there are some who are not fans.
If he makes the mistake of reading online commentaries, John finds himself barely registering the enthusiastic, kind comments and focusing strongly on the nasty ones. When he performed at the World Series it was especially bad, he says.
He knew he was off his game that day. His throat hurt. He had a cold. But it was the World Series and he was not going to let the family he has at the CUBS down. So he performed as best as he could, and still the insults came. But amongst the insults was a glowing endorsement from Lady Gaga, applauding John for the passion he brought to the anthem.
One comment from one person gave John the strength to ignore the hate and focus on the beauty in life, instead. That’s the message he brings to audiences and that’s the focus he brings to his one life. We all have a unique gift to offer.
John Vincent’s gift is his passion for kindness, which he presents through his voice.
Whether speaking to an audience or singing for one, any imperfections are outshined by his passion and speak even louder to his audiences’ hearts.
“You can make everything into a positive,” he says. He realizes that may sound crazy to some people, but promises that if you persevere through challenges you will find the positive side of it. If we all gave up at the first sign of imperfection, says John, the human race would cease to exist.
He’s been there, to that place that felt like a prison, right in his own mind. He knows what it’s like to feel trapped in pain and fear, and he’ll do whatever he can to help people escape their own prisons, even if it’s just for a few moments.
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