Homeless man moves people to tears with music

A Vancouver man moved people to tears in a secondhand store with his music. There's a lesson behind these notes that's fitting for the holiday season. It's a story of sharing, and not wanting anything in return.

Classical music has always been part of James Maynard's life. He said it grasps his soul and makes him feel alive; he's never heard anything like he heard on Friday at Second Hand Solutions, a thrift store and coffee shop run by Open House Ministries.

"He gives you a joy that surpasses understanding. Just listen to him," Maynard said.

He's talking about pianist David Allen Welsh, a local homeless man with raw talent. Some people might say he's improvising, making up melodies as he goes along. Welsh said he has no control over what he plays, and he's not even playing by ear; the notes just come from his fingers.

"People can't do that unless God were with them," Maynard said.

Welsh believes in the same thing, "My custom is to sit and close my eyes and say, 'Dad, do what you do, it's your gift'."

Welsh's relationship with God has been the only steady part of his 50-years of living. He was born in Iowa, grew up in the Dakotas and came to the Pacific Northwest more than a decade ago.

"I've been on the streets since I was 6 years old," Welsh said.

That's also when Welsh said he discovered his talent.

"I don't know how to play music, but I like what I hear in my head," Welsh said.

He's never taken a music lesson and can't read a note. But sharing it keeps him going.

"Sometimes I don't even know what key I'm pushing. My eyes aren't even open. I'm just letting the music play the music," Welsh said.

He's been coming to the thrift store for the past year, using a borrowed piano to play a song full of emotion.

"It's called 'Aerial Aquatas.' It's my version of 'Amazing Grace'," said Welsh.

The melody made people in the store stop to record the moment in disbelief.

"I was so ashamed at myself for having passed judgment on him," Maynard said.

Welsh's music moved Maynard so much he wept.

"When someone is genuinely here and genuinely moved and they reach out and give you a hug, I weep too," said Welsh.

Most of us might think that Welsh would tear up because of his situation: no home, no family, and few belongings. He calls his life rich because of what he has -- music -- and believes God wants him to share it.

"I can't be selfish because anything that I get, God's given," he said.

Welsh's fingers are numb from living outside for years in Minnesota where the temperature sometimes drops to 29 degrees below zero. The fingers are purple at close look. He shouldn't be able to hit a key, much less play an entire song on the piano.

Yet Welsh keeps on giving his music to anyone who will listen -- pushed by faith that his fellow man, like James Maynard, will hear grace in every note.

Welsh has also some of his music posted on YouTube.