A Bay area veteran decided to pay it forward by giving a homeless musician a set of guitar strings. The only thing he asked for in exchange? A song.
Veteran Aaron Barnes knows the streets of Sarasota, but not like Paul Lonardo, who is homeless.
“Im out here playing on the streets just trying to feed myself,” said Lonardo.
Lonardo told Bay News 9 he once had a music career in California. It ended two years ago when he returned to the Bay area to take care of his dying mother.
“I dropped everything and I figured that was it with my music career and I stayed away," Lonardo said. "She passed away in my arms.”
Lonardo was broke. He sold everything in order to pay his mother's medical bills, accept his guitar. It’s now his only lifeline while he lives on the streets.
“I’m a struggling person right now,” Lonardo said.
Barnes and Lonardo's paths crossed recently in Sarasota. The war veteran says he saw Lonardo with his guitar and asked him to play a song.
“I asked him if he had any original music, and he said, 'yeah I have some original music,' and then he looked at his guitar with a heavy sigh and said, 'unfortunately, my guitar only has 4 strings,'” Barnes said.
Barnes said music kept him calm while fighting in Iraq.
“Music made it so I could come home,” Barnes said.
Without a second thought, he bought Lonardo strings and asked for only one thing in return.
“The only thing I said to him was, you owe me a song.”
Barnes returned the next day to check on Lonardo and hear the song he was promised. However, what he found was much more then just a man living on the streets.
“Do you ever get chills when you listen to music? The hair on your neck stands up. It’s a lot like that,” said Barnes.
With five wary fingers stroking five strong strings, Lonardo hasn’t stopped playing and says he never will.
“Anything can happen, the sky’s the limit,” Lonardo said.
Since their meeting a few weeks ago, Barnes has been helping Lonardo get gigs around the local area and would like to help him get a record together. Lonardo has written over 90 original songs.