For two days this week, magic was in the air in the Bluffton Target parking lot.
People bustling in and out were serenaded by a talented musician. He leaned into each note, almost dancing with the swirling notes from a violin plugged into a small speaker. One night, he was playing an accordion, and people said he was equally as good with that.
Next to him, swaying with the music, was a woman. She was holding a sign that said she has one child, is pregnant and needs money for rent and food, as well as a job.
Many people gave them money.
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By Tuesday afternoon, there was no sign of the mysterious musician at the Target.
But he left behind an odd gift in this season of giving. He forced us to think about giving.
Why do we give gifts? Do our gifts come with strings attached? If so, are they really gifts at all?
Judging by a long string of comments on the Bluffton/Hilton Head Ask and Answer Facebook page, judgment naturally came quickly in this case.
They should have known about birth control, some said, and, yes, abortion was mentioned.
He was wearing expensive running shoes.
That speaker wasn’t cheap either.
He was working a top-dollar cell phone, and was too busy to even thank a woman who had gone in to buy things for them.
Maybe they had a Mercedes nearby.
If he’s so talented, why can’t he work a regular gig?
Someone who talked to the man said he has an Italian name and has a Facebook page. They believe he is the same person seen on YouTube videos playing on the streets of Europe as well as Bluffton.
A person who chipped in some money got a glimpse at the pot, and the virtuoso musician was doing well. It was estimated he could clear $500 a day, tax-free, which could, in theory, add up to a six-figure annual salary, said the man who did the math.
But others who crossed the same parking lot seemed to dance to a different violinist.
If these people were indeed destitute, as the sign suggested, there but by the grace of God go most of us. One bump in the road — like a health problem — and many of us would need to be playing a violin in the street.
The cost of living is high, especially in Bluffton, they said. Have you priced diapers lately?
And besides, he was not panhandling, he was entertaining in a breathtaking way. People pay for entertainment. And those who have ventured beyond Pritchardville are accustomed to seeing artists perform in public with a guitar case open for tips.
With so few shopping days left until Christmas, the mystery violinist gave us an opportunity to open these gifts. They are comments on the situation, posted on Facebook:
“It’s always a good idea to help your fellow man.”
“The spirit of giving shouldn’t have expectations anyway.”
“Let’s spread kindness, not judgment.”
“I tried to teach my daughters to give with an open heart. If I’m ‘duped,’ it’s on them.”
“It’s not your job to figure out who has what. It’s your job to help those you can and let God and karma sort the rest out.”
David Lauderdale: 843-706-8115, @ThatsLauderdale