ITS THE LITTLE THINGS

As my daughter, Sarah and I wandered in from the parking garage at St. Thomas Midtown Hospital, we weren’t quite sure where we were. I walked up to a man with a hospital badge, very well dressed and had the biggest smile on his face. I inquired, “I was wondering if you could help us. We are looking for the admissions desk for surgical patients. He didn’t blink his eyes. immediately he said, “I’d be glad to show you where that desk is“.

Off we went down a very long hallway and it didn’t seem like our destination was anywhere close. I told him that if he would point us in the right direction, we could take it from there. But he was adamant in making sure we arrived at the right place. He was quite friendly and I ask him his name. He said “My name is Geoff Smallwood,” … I told him my name and introduced him to Sarah.

It took us a couple minutes to get to the admissions desk and we chatted along the way. When we got there, we thanked him, shook hands and he said, “if there’s any other way I could help you I would be most happy to.“ we nodded, and he walked away. As we were sitting in the waiting room, I wondered who he was. So I googled him and discovered that he was Dr. Geoffrey Smallwood, the Chief Medical Officer At St. Thomas.

This man did not know us from Adam, but if anyone understands anything about leadership, it is this. The greatest leaders are a servants first. So it is no puzzle why this man was in a position of leadership. He displayed and defined this term to Sarah and me .

I read his bio…This is an amazing man, and my encounter with him, a powerfully humbling reminder. Thank you Dr. Geoffrey Smallwood, for reinforcing the phrase, “It’s the little things.

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. (John C. Maxwell)

GOODBYE SONNA ANDERSON

SONNA SAUDE

She once played the violin….I was her teacher in the 5th grade. I knew her as Sonna Anderson.

Her father, Harold, and my father, Corliss, sang in “The Plainsmen” together. They were a musical group of men who sang cowboy and some country gospel songs. A lot of their repertoire was from “The Sons Of The Pioneers.”

Her heritage was tethered to Scandinavia. So is mine. She was a champion for Sons of Norway. My dad cooked the lutefisk, and I played in musical groups for many of their dinners.

Some years back, after raising families and establishing our careers in states far apart, we reconnected on Facebook and communicated from time to time. I followed her posts.

Sonna was of Lutheran notion; a servant, hard working, caring, curious and benevolent. I know this because my writing partner faced a health crisis that became a financial burden. Sonna found out about a benefit concert we were having from one of my posts, , and generously donated to his medical fund in Nashville. She never met him.

In 1988, I lost my sight for a period of time, and I spoke about it on a visit to Bismarck at my home church. Sonna waited in line to speak to me. It was one of those special moments. Memories of the orchestra flooded my heart as I received her warm hug..and we talked briefly.

This lovely woman was brilliant, a distinguished District Judge, and revered. But most of all, she was my friend….and I’m very very sad just now. I mourn her passing, but I’m so happy for her in her new home.

I’m going to Norway for 19 days in May. I’ll be remembering her there….and that sweet smile. ❤️

BEGINNINGS

It’s a contemplative feeling I have as I look at the trees outside. From my chair in the family room, I see the towering magnolia in our courtyard softly sway as the wind gently brushes through her branches….and I’m listening to the music of one very dear to me.

In my earliest days of the music business, I began working in a small recording studio with Bill Townsend in Bismarck, North Dakota. It was called Tri-Art Recording. We recorded jingles, custom albums and did remote recordings in the local area. At the same time, I had the high school orchestra as well as teaching music appreciation and theory.

One day my partner was contacted by a fellow from Aberdeen, South Dakota. He was a Catholic farm boy of Irish persuasion, who was an aspiring singer songwriter. His name was Phill McHugh. I worked on his first album, and in those days I had to wear a lot of hats. I played piano and bass, bringing high school students in to play drums as well as for string and brass sessions. It was crude but workable, and we managed.

Then on his second album, we recorded strings at Pinebrook studios in Alexandria, Indiana. It was my first professional orchestration. and as I conducted these real studio musicians, I was scared silly. That album, “Canvas For The Sun” was picked up for distribution on Lamb and Lion Records by Billy Ray Hearn in Canoga Park, California.

Phil is a phenomenal lyricist and songwriter. He moved to Nashville, and we worked for a time together. Over the years, we have not been in touch but for a few ever so brief meetings. I remember that season with him. I spend little time living in the past, but I do miss that maiden voyage, our primitive ways, the unspoiled excitement and unbridled passion we felt as we created together in those early dreaming years.

One of my favorite songs that Phill wrote was “I Am Stone”. I so enjoyed him singing that song back in the day. That day is gone now….but not from my heart. Those were the days of my beginnings.

I AM STONE

You’ll be water you’ll be fire

You will meet my souls desire

As with all creatures on your earth

Your love sustains my birth

Lord of Jacob, Lord of Paul,

Lord to me and of us all

I am stone please use your tool

To make my life a jewel

I find life and love and more

As I follow you my lord

Holy one of Israel

No human tongue could ever tell

The glories of your majesty

And yet you walk with me

A BEAUTIFUL RIDE

I had a pre-op appointment at St. Thomas Midtown today and was scheduled for early morning, so I decided to Uber downtown. My driver picked me up in front of my house, and we were on our way.

He was very quiet, I asked him a few questions, but he just nodded and smiled. As we continued, I asked him, What country?” He told me he was from Venezuela, had been in the country for just one year with his wife and his name was Jorge (George).

He turned to me and said, “I speak not so English.” He asked me if I liked music, and I told him I did. He turned his music up…it was “Radio Ga Ga” and he got this big smile. We talked of living in Franklin and how much nicer it was then as he said, crazy cities”like Miami and Orlando, where he lived briefly. He told me he was starting a new Mexican restaurant and I told him about an instrument called a

charango I bought up in the mountains of Argentina.

I told him that I spent three weeks in South America, in Quito, Ecuador, Salta, Argentina, Bogotá, Columbia and Caracas, Venezuela. I also informed him that the only phrase in Spanish I really knew well from that trip. was, “Donde esta el bano?”(Where is the bathroom?) He laughed out loud! I learned that phrase in Mrs. Francis Spanish class. I think she would’ve been proud of how much I remembered.

We talked of music, I spoke of my love for Antonio Carlos Jobim, He told me he liked Hawaiian ukulele music and proceeded to play me “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” by an Hawaiian artist.

As we were listening, he looked at me and said, “Good music, good people, good conversation, good trip” We smiled at each other. It was truly a beautiful moment.

When we got to the hospital, I thanked him. and shook his hand….as I gave him my hand…he pulled me over and gave me a big hug. I bid him “Vaya con dios” and he nodded, “Amén.”

It was church on a beautiful ride.

ABOUT LOST THINGS

Sometimes life is an oceanic blur.

Pam and my days are always in full tilt boogie. We love opening our home to friends and those who need a “lift up” in life.

Since Christmas it seems to have been non-stop. A week with Russian friends, then those from Belarus, 9 days with our Guatemalan painters, a few days with our very precious Minnesotan relatives and grandchildren sleepovers.

Just last week, we were supposed to babysit our littlest grandy In Winston-Salem, but Pam got a 101 temperature and we could not go. Around that same time, I had two unsuccessful epidural shots for a damaged vertebrae and Pam soon having surgery for her knee was bringing me to the brink.

So I’m watching the Oscars, and seeing one of my favorite singers, Bette Midler singing “The Place Where The Lost Things Go.” She sang beautifully, but she looked older to me and all of a sudden I felt older, tired….and kind of lost in the moment. That notion was a combination of medication, concern for Pam, the whirlwind of people and just a lotta stuff…..The feeling lingered in me.

It was just one of those tunnels in life that you pass through….and it is what it is.

I didn’t crawl out of that vortex on my own. It was realizing all of the vested relationships I had through the years that slowly lifted me out of the mire. As I slept in the chair next to Pam’s hospital bed last night, I rubbed her hand…my eyes burning…..comforted knowing there were people praying, people concerned, people caring and people in action for us…. reminded once again of that powerful antidote….Friends.

Pam and I are far beyond grateful to our friends, their posts and words of encouragement that help us make sense of those times when we get momentarily overwhelmed and lost. It is through these intersections that God moves…He knows about lost things.

FRIEND FINDERS

“Words have meaning. Lies have consequences.”

I’ve had to wrangle with the demon at times, no matter how how white or venial. ….To clear my head I had to spill the beans. It was awkward, humbling and painful. But when fear of what people will say rules in me, others will surely be lost in the shuffle…including myself. it’s a life raft, this honesty is. If gives my life back to me.

In “Empires Of My Mind,” Jacob Dylan sings his father’s metaphoric song about wrong and right. Here’s a couple snippets, but you should check out the entire lyric.

“There is trouble in my mind

There is dark

There is dark and there is light”

(Dylan goes on later in his address)

“There is no order

And there is chaos

And there is crime

There is no one to hold on tonite

In the empire of my mind”

We all know the drill. I’ve found in my feeble experience, that usually the strongest antagonistic voices don’t care anything about me in the first place. Moreover, I’ve found that colossal failures, mistakes and brokenness are wonderful “long haul” friend finders.

“ No legacy is so rich as honesty.“

(Shakespeare)

THE QUIET SIREN

No one goes unscathed in life.

There is a certain experiential brutality somewhere along the way. For some, there is no end to the arduous complexities of struggle. For others there are mercurial up and downs.We imagine some do escape, but if we really knew….no one does.

So what do we do? There’s plenty of, “well why don’t they just” to go around. We only have guesses at what people endure unless we walk with them. We can’t walk with everyone and we’re overwhelmed by the massive avalanche of need.

Everything we see and hear tells us that we should be comfortable, because we deserve it, and quite frankly, we just don’t want to deal with someone else’s drama. But we have a reckoning with that strong man in us. Are we doing enough ….are we doing too little? There’s a tension there, so to ease our stress, we ask convenience to draw up the statutes on how we handle our benevolence …it’s easier that way…and we engrave that on our resolve. Usually, prayer has little to do with it, and God gets pushed out of the mix. Our strictures are in place and we imagine God should be good with them…even without a consultation.

There’s a litany of explanations for non-action. I love this quote by Publilius Syrus, a Syrian slave who was educated by his Italian master..and then freed. He wrote…”Every vice has its excuse ready.”

When we allow ourselves to become numb to our quiet siren…that still small voice…I think we lose some depth of our soul. I am not saying we should walk around feeling guilty all day. There is much good being done in this world, and of course, we tend to align ourselves with those things as well. Even though we’ve had nothing to do with them, It just makes us feel so much better about ourselves.

Anne Frank said It gloriously. “No one becomes poor by giving.” Maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss what to us feels discomfited….a thoughtfulness I sense in this current cultural milieu, is far off ….adrift.

”Non nobis solum nati sumus”

(not for ourselves are we born)