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Image: People standing on a subway platform in NYC, a train rushing behind them. The place where Benny plays his trombone, after the accident where he lost all his memories.

If You Lost 29 Years of Memories, What Would Bring You Back to Life?

It’s rush hour on the New York City Subway. Jostled, hurried, and stressed about just missing your train, the sound of a trombone makes its way down the platform. You stop, take a deep breath, and just take a moment to listen. Perhaps just a little bit of that stress from the day melts away. The busker that gave you that moment of serenity at the most unexpected moment was Benny, a musician who–despite losing a lifetime of memories–has dedicated his life to sharing the gift of music with others. 

At 29 years old, Benny lost all of his memory in a car accident. He couldn’t remember his name, that he had a son, or even where he was. But Benny had a trombone, and he did remember one thing: how to play it. 7 years later, his story begs the question: if we start to focus more on the impact we can have on others, instead of getting stuck in our own problems, could life become infinitely better?

Image: People standing on a subway platform in NYC, a train rushing behind them. The place where Benny plays his trombone, after the accident where he lost all his memories.
Source: Unsplash

In spite of loss, there is always something that can be done.

What is it in your own life that holds you back from wiping the slate clean and seeing the world in a new way? We all have so many ideas about who we are, and what we think we should be, and what we’ve been told to be. But when we wipe those away, what is left waiting for you?

Image: Benny playing his trombone.
Courtesy of Benjamin Davis

After his accident in 2010, Benny took to the streets to share the one gift he remembered: music. Despite his memory loss, he still knew how to play his trombone. Wanting to bring joy to those around him, he started venturing to the New York City Subway every morning and evening at rush hour hoping to be a bright spot in the day of a stranger. Maybe a wonderful tune during their commute could be what they needed to walk a little taller and see the world a little brighter.

And even though Benny needs the money he receives from passersby, the money isn’t why he plays. He plays simply to bring other people joy! To ride the subway, and to see the smiles on people’s faces. 

Benny’s story touches on an element of the human spirit that’s so important, and yet so often forgotten: that focusing on what we can do for others can override what we’ve lost. In Benny’s words, he’s getting way more than he’s giving, even despite the circumstances.

For more on his accident, recovery, and how music brought him back to life, here’s Benny himself in this amazing story, brought to us by Nowhere Men.

Via: Nowhere Men 1

We absolutely love Nowhere Men, and we know you will too. Check out our other articles about people they’ve featured like the busker giving away money instead of asking for it, the brothers traveling the world on the kindness of strangers, and the question that can make us all feel less lonely. Or even better, check out their YouTube channel for more incredible stories like this one. 

Today, Benny lives in Atlanta, GA, where he has been living since 2020 and working on his small business, BBoxed1, for which he makes radios, tables, and RV conversions. You can find Benny on Instagram and Facebook

The healing power of music!

As Benny explained and as so many of us know to be true, music has incredible healing powers, far past a cathartic night of scream-singing along to Taylor Swift. It allows us to self-regulate, to feel grounded, and to feel calmer, and from a medical perspective, can genuinely affect patient outcomes, with live music even making its way into oncology waiting rooms and neonatal care units. 2

Music is scientifically proven to help reduce anxiety better than prescription drugs, 3 and for those with significant memory loss like Benny, it can even bring back some of those memories that became buried so deep. Music was what propelled Benny back into the world. The things (and people) we love stay with us, always, ingrained into our DNA. For Benny, it was the one thing following a traumatizing experience that brought him back to life. 

His work brings joy to the mundane and is a reminder for every single person he comes across to stop and smell the roses—that is—to take the time to slow down and look at the things around you. 

“I feel like it’s a gift, more than people think it’s a curse. I feel like it’s a start over. You don’t get a second chance to do things over sometimes. And then when you do, you just make it great… When you lose everything, you just pay attention more. And then you find out life isn’t about this “getting up, and doing this, and being everywhere, being on time, and blah blah blah.” You miss life like that. And I was like… I missed enough of life.”

– Benny

Decide to start living!

Here’s perhaps the most exciting part of this story: you don’t need to have some revolutionary experience or insane accident to change your life. You can simply decide to change it. We don’t often get a second chance at things, but a mindset shift like this provides just that. Be grateful for the things you have, take the time to bring joy to others, and remember: even when the world feels like it’s ending, more often than not, you’re going to be okay.

For more articles that prove you can make a big change in your life by seeing things just a little differently, check out these articles next:

4 Strategies to Stop Procrastinating and Start Living

Are you a master procrastinator? As Tim Urban explains, chronic procrastinators have three main characters at play in our brains: the Rational-Decision Maker, the Instant-Gratification Monkey, and the Panic Monster! So how can we keep the monkey at bay to stop procrastinating and start living?

Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
The Key to Living a Longer, Fuller Life? Ditch the Routine!

Live every day you’re alive by breaking your routine. Jed Jenkins quit his job, picked up his life, and lived each day to the fullest, choosing adventure and rediscovering childlike wonder for everything new. Read on to learn a little something about the beauty of spontaneity and the amazing things that come with a willingness to do what scares you. 

Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
This 90-Year-Old Figure Skater Proves You’re Never Too Old To Do What You Love

Let’s let the magnificent, 90 year old figure skater, Yvonne Dowlen, skate into our hearts and leave us with wisdom about balance, joy and the unfolding of life.

Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
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  1. Nowhere Men. (2017, December 13). He doesn’t remember his first 29 years. YouTube. Retrieved December 20, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0vyQFEoiLM
  2. Schiffman, R. (2021, April 8). The Healing Power of Music. The New York Times. Retrieved December 20, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/08/well/music-therapy-treatment-stress.html
  3. Major health benefits of music uncovered. Newsroom. (2013, March 28). Retrieved December 20, 2022, from https://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/channels/news/major-health-benefits-music-uncovered-225589
Image: Ellen Allerton

Ellen Allerton

Former Chief Operating Officer

After graduating from St. Lawrence University in 2020 and returning home to Vermont, Ellen found that helping make the world a better place with the Goodness Exchange team was just where she wanted to be. You can usually find her watching television while getting crafty, on the ice as a figure skating coach for 10-14 year old's, or in her inflatable kayak named Heidi. She's quite the film nerd and quite the cook, and likes it best when those two things—movies and food—coincide.

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