Singing for survival on
|Michael Polite spent the
2004-2005 school year studying Spanish in Sagunto, Spain. Now back at
Union College he is working toward completion of his language arts
Photo: Courtesty of Colegio Adventista de Sagunto.
Michael Polite decided
when he was a sophomore at Union College that his life was moving too fast
to fully experience it. To decelerate, he decided to spend a year studying
Spanish at Colegio Adventista de Sagunto in Valencia, Spain. Michael
returned to Union this fall with a Spanish degree to add to his language
arts education major, a broadened worldview and an uncommon Christmas
On Christmas Eve, while many of
his classmates were at home sipping hot chocolate with their families,
Michael found himself alone and shivering on the streets of Venice, Italy.
His plans to tour Europe over Christmas vacation had stopped short when he
missed his flight to London due to a mix up about which airport his
airline was departing and spent the last of his money on a 70 euro (about
$87) taxi drive to the correct airport—only to realize he had left his
passport at the hostel where he’d stayed the previous night.
The evening was cold and,
although Michael had recovered his passport, he still had nowhere to spend
the night. The hostel where he’d slept the previous nights had thrown him
out because he couldn’t pay and accused him of taking advantage when he
asked to use a telephone. He had no cash and no credit cards; even his
calling card had run out while he’d been speaking with a pastor who had
the telephone number of an Adventist woman who might put him up for the
“I sat in San Marcos Square for
about five hours, reading my Bible, claiming promises,” Michael said.
“Late in the afternoon the idea came to me that I could sing on the street
for money.” The previous year, Michael had been one of two students to
create and conduct Union College’s gospel choir, Exalted Praise, and he
had performed solo as well. Still he prayed that he wouldn’t become
desperate enough to sing for cash.
After an hour, no other option
presented itself. Christmas Eve services were beginning at the Catholic
churches in and around San Marcos Square and Michael began to sing in
hopes of impressing the passing crowds and earning at least a few euros.
But after only a few moments he was informed by a police officer that it
was illegal to sing on the street without a permit.
“By now I was thinking, ‘Lord,
what is going on?’” Michael said. Everything that could go wrong had, and
now even his last resort was forbidden. He wandered the streets searching
for a warm place to sleep. “I finally decided that jail was warmer than
He found a church in San Maria
Square, laid down his coat to collect change, and—through chattering
teeth—began singing everything from Christmas carols to Disney hits.
When he began to sing he was
hoping for about five euros—enough to buy a calling card and contact the
woman whose number the pastor had given him. An hour-and-a-half later when
the admiring crowd thinned out and left the street to attend Christmas Eve
services, he counted 107 euros—more than $134. “I just sat there in awe of
what God had provided,” he said.
The woman whose number the
pastor had supplied turned out to be a mother of two young daughters.
Despite his being a stranger, she welcomed Michael into her home for
Christmas Eve. “She was so gracious,” he said.
During the taxi ride to the
woman’s house, Michael reflected on all that had happened over the past
several hours and what it meant. Despite his plan going awry—and largely
because it had gone awry—he had seen God send compassionate
strangers to help him in ways even bigger than he had requested.
“I wouldn’t want to do it
again, but I’m glad I had to do it then,” he said. “If I had just stumbled
across enough money to buy a phone card before I had to sing for it, I
wouldn’t have seen how much more God was planning to provide.”