Thanks to the kindness of a well connected friend, I attended an advance screening of The Soloist, releasing in theaters across the country today. The movie stars Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr., and is based on the true story of Nathaniel Ayers (Foxx), a homeless musical prodigy living on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles, and his relationship with LA Times reporter Steve Lopez (Downey).
Being both a resident of downtown LA–my wife and I live a few blocks from Skid Row–and a regular fan of Steve Lopez’s column, it was as if home had hit the silver screen. Or had the silver screen hit home?
The Soloist is the perfect movie to take a small group to see and then discuss afterward. Warning: your discussion may quickly turn to action so this is not the movie to see for the good-intentioned. It’s a shining example of friendship and the implications such a relationship can have on both the homeless and home-blessed.
For the past two years, my wife and I have been in the middle of our own Soloist story as we gather at a local McDonald’s each week and hang out with a few friends who live on the streets. Much like the story of Lopez and Ayers, a bond of friendship has been established and life is being shared. We’re all traveling to a wedding together next May and for some of our homeless friends, this is the first invitation to a wedding they’ve received their entire life.
If you’re not used to hanging with people that don’t look like you, make money like you, or live like you, The Soloist is a great primer for showing how easy it is to share life with others. There will be challenges and bumps and extra patience required, but it’s what being a part of God’s kingdom is all about.
Bonus: Walking home from work last week, I bumped into the Nathaniel Ayers and met him for the first time. He was carrying a small instrument and walking with a female friend. Mr. Ayers was very shy, but very sharp. When I asked if he had seen the movie yet, he said he had only read the book. “Movies are a waste of time,” he said, “they ruin your mind!”
Mr. Ayers’ friend picked up a Soloist movie poster she found on the ground and coerced him into signing it for me. We were both reluctant, but her insistence was relentless. “Mr. Brad,” he said before ending our friendly 10-minute conversation with an autographed poster, “it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
If there is one thing The Soloist reminded me, it’s that life was never meant to be lived solo.