Oxford, Alabama—I am in the car. I am sipping a coffee. And I am waiting to take a stage and entertain a bunch of good-hearted people.
I have ten minutes until showtime.
And I love you.
Admittedly, I don’t know WHY I love you. Because chances are, we’ve never met. But I DO love you. And I guess you could say that I’m only passing it on. Because that’s what you do with love. You don’t keep it in your pocket.
See, once I was once a kid who looked out a bedroom window at acres of sadness. After my father departed this world, it took two decades to find myself. I didn’t know if I ever would.
I was a drifting soul. I’ve had a hundred grunt jobs, and a hundred more, and not a single job paid over a few bucks per hour. I was a blue collar nothing. You would’ve walked past me in Walmart and never remembered my face.
At big gatherings, I was the man who sort of blended into the upholstery. I am a high-school dropout, a person who once felt like a waste of cosmic space.
A man who would usually find himself in the kitchen after a family event, doing dishes because that’s where I felt I belonged.
I don’t know. Anyway, I felt unloved, unwanted, unseen, un-special, un-smart. For the largest piece of my life, I wondered if anyone gave a damn about me at all. And if they did, I wondered why.
Growing up, it seemed like other kids had more important things to do than worry about love. Most were interested in sports, girls, fast vehicles, beer, or combining all four of the aforementioned.
So I didn’t believe in love. I thought it was a made-up idea. And a cruel one at that. But I was wrong. Because somewhere along the way, I found it.
No. It found me. And I don’t have time to tell you how. I’m typing as fast as I can before I have to go.
It was average people who loved me. People who pulled me out of the upholstery.
Jim Griffith. God bless Jim. He has Alzheimer’s now, but that white-haired man treated me like his son.
Bob Browning—who gave me a job at the Baptist church, playing piano. Who took me to lunch almost every day and paid for it himself. Who couldn’t say a harsh word about Hitler if the Gestapo held a gun to his head.
And Lyle—who I talk and text with just about every day. Who took me to a local bar during the World Series. We sat at the bar together, and when some guy asked if we were father and son, Lyle said, “You betcha,” in his Wisconsin accent.
People like them.
People who encouraged me to smile so often that my cheeks grew by three cubic inches. And I’m just scratching the surface.
I’ve known some people who had no reason to love me, but did.
Some lady once gave me three hundred bucks for no reason when I was nineteen.
A corn-farming Holiness pastor from Mississippi once gave me his personal guitar because I didn’t have one.
A woman gave me a ride when I had a flat tire. A man paid for my supper because I reminded him of someone.
The list goes on.
And over time, love has done something to me. And I don’t want to get all sappy, but I’m going to:
I’m not the soul I once was. I’m a different soul. A happier one. A fella who is sitting in an Oxford, Alabama, parking lot, typing to strangers on a laptop, about to go onstage to do whatever it is that I do.
So wish me luck.
I love you.
Pass it on.