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I work as a fiddle player at Renaissance Festivals. I particularly enjoy working at my home festival, which is the one geographically closest to me and that I'm at every year for its full two month run. I have many friends who I only get to see at this festival, because they travel the faire circuit as relatively nomadic performers. One of these traveling friends is named Sky.

One year, many years ago, I was playing a song called The Swallowtail Jig on my fiddle as Sky happened to walk past me. She stopped and listened to the whole thing, which was unusual as performers almost always have somewhere to be. When I stopped, she blew me a kiss, waved, and said "that's my favorite song, thank you" as she ran off. A Swallowtail is a type of butterfly, and it actually reminds me a bit of Sky because she often, purely coincidently, dressed in the same yellow and blue colors as the swallowtail butterfly and she flitted around from spot to spot twirling her long hair and skirts, like a butterfly skipping from flower to flower. And so, every time I saw Sky coming my way that season, I wrapped up whatever I was playing and started the Swallowtail Jig. It was just a fun little way to say hello to her, since she and I were both busy entertaining the patrons. She would always blow me a kiss or wave as she went by, and I'd segue back into my planned play list and not think much more of it.

Years later, she and I happened to be opening acts for the show of a mutual friend. I went on first, and performed a mix of fiddle songs and original poetry. One of the songs happened to be the Swallowtail Jig. I didn't even know Sky was the other opener when I created my performance piece, the jig just happened to fit best with what I was doing. When Sky went on after me, she performed a spoken word piece. It told the story of a very difficult year for her. It was a year when she had finally quit her day job to pursue the arts full time, and she had left an abusive husband who was being really horrible and frightening about the breakup. She continued her piece, confiding that she had considered ending her own life many times that year. And then one day she happened to hear her favorite piece of music while she was at work at a festival, struggling to keep her fake smile in place. She took time she couldn't really afford to stop and listen, and went on her way feeling a bit lighter and with a real smile on her face. That week as she dealt with getting a restraining order against her ex-husband, she was in a very dark place. She thought to herself, though, that there was always that one piece of music in the world, and she might hear it again. She decided she would hang on long enough to hear that one beautiful piece of music played live one more time. She told herself that everytime she wanted to give up, and she continued to hear that piece of music nearly every day she was at work at the Renaissance Festival. Each time it lightened her heart, at least for a while, and reminded her that there is still beauty in the world. Because of that song, and the fiddler who remembered she loved it, she made it through the worst year of her life.

I was in tears as I listened from backstage. When she was done performing her set piece, she addressed the audience. "The person who was on before me, River, was that fiddler and my favorite song was a part of its performance. River had no idea how much hearing that song meant to me until just now, but I am forever grateful for its act of kindness."

She was right, I had no idea. We weren't close friends and we didn't really talk much at all, much less about deep things. I just had a random fun little idea to play her "her song" when I saw her and I went with it... and it made all the difference. Friends, act however compassion moves you to act, even if you don't know why. Some day your kind act may be the reason someone finds the strength they need.