Being alert to the world around you | Greg Asimakoupoulos

And Kenny G turned toward me and asked my name …

At the end of a three-month assignment in Switzerland, my wife and I spent a weekend in Paris. On Sunday we worshipped at the American Church on the Seine River near the Eiffel Tower. It was a glorious experience as Christians from various parts of the globe gathered in this century-old gothic building. A black gospel choir guided our praise. The sermon was from a South Korean woman. The stained-glass windows celebrated the universality of the Christian message.

As I left the church, I was inspired by Pastor Paik’s take-away message. She invited us to celebrate and live into our artistic passions. Taking photos is one of my passions. And what better place to take pictures than in Paris. I gave myself permission to look for unique scenes to photograph.

The Pont Alexandre III called to me. Of the many bridges that span the Seine, it is the most ornate. It connects the Champs-Élysées quarter with those of the Invalides and Eiffel Tower. At one end of the bridge, I looked up and just happened to see a cherub holding a trident. It reminded me of our Seattle Mariners’ whose season is off to a brilliant start. I aimed my iPhone at the figure with thoughts of sending the photo to my buddy Rick Rizzs who is the Mariners’ play-by-play announcer.

Walking the length of the bridge, I made note of the grandstands being set up for the upcoming Olympic Games. I continued my trek knowing that there were large statues of Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle on the other side of the river. As I reached the end of the bridge, I saw a short man with long spirally hair standing at the guard rail looking over the Seine. It looked like someone from Seattle. Could it be? Here in Paris? Was it really? “Kenny!” I called out.

And Kenny G turned toward me and asked my name. We had a brief conversation. I told him we lived on Mercer Island. I explained I’d played sax up through college and then quit. He thanked me for giving it up. With a smile, he said I might have given him competition. Small chance.

After agreeing to pose for a selfie, Kenny reminded me that he still performs at Jazz Alley in Seattle between Christmas and New Year’s each December.

I continued across the bridge to take a close up of Winston and Charles before hurrying back to where my wife was waiting. “Look who I just met,” I said with a smile as I showed Wendy the photo on my phone. She recognized him immediately.

When I posted the photo of Kenny G on my Facebook page, those who know me weren’t all that surprised. Seems I have a reputation for running into famous people quite often. But I’m convinced it doesn’t have to do with who I am. Rather, I believe it has to do with simply being aware of my surroundings.

In Proverbs 20:12 we read these words… “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both.” In other words, God has given us the ability to be aware in order that we might be alert to life through what we hear and what we see. Through our ears and our eyes we have the means to absorb people and things worth noticing.

While Wendy and I first arrived in Switzerland, our hosts told us to look up as we walked through the medieval town of Luzern. They didn’t want us to miss the nuances of artistic expression that most people miss by only looking forward. I’m so glad we were given that advice. The beauty we beheld by looking up was breathtaking.

I’m reminded of that line from a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God: But only he who sees, takes off his shoes. The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries and daub their natural faces unaware…”

I don’t know about you, but I for one do not want to be a blackberry picker. I want to hear the music and see the beauty of serendipities that God has hidden for us to discover (including musicians like Kenny G).

Guest columnist Greg Asimakoupoulos is a former chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores in Mercer Island.