Sometimes in this business, it isn’t so much what you know as it is who you know.
A couple of years ago, I wrote about trying to nail the final plank in my bucket list by meeting Bill Gaither. If you have recently transferred in from Uranus, you may not be familiar with the name. Bill Gaither and his wife, Gloria, are to gospel music what Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were to the High Renaissance period, only the Gaithers are still alive and still making beautiful music.
The pair has written more than 700 songs, many of them classics including my personal favorite, “I’ve Just Seen Jesus,” a paean guaranteed to melt the hardest heart of the most avowed heathen.
The Gaithers are worldwide ambassadors for gospel music. Since 1991, they have been touring with their Homecoming Friends all over the world, including Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Gates of Jerusalem and the old Georgia Dome, the largest-ever one-day assemblage of gospel music fans.
In the column, I admitted my bucket list was pretty much planked-out. I had shot the breeze with presidents in the Oval Office.
I had seen the sun rise in the Scottish Highlands and watched the Olympic Flame being lit in the ancient temple of Hera in Greece. I had embedded with Georgia’s 48th Brigade Combat Team in Iraq. I had painted a portrait that hangs in the state Capitol. Yes, I had lived a blessed life. But I hadn’t met the Gaithers. My bucket had a hole in it.
That column garnered an unusually large number of responses from readers across the state who had met one or both of the Gaithers and/or had attended their concerts. There was not a negative comment to be found among the responses. People talked about how gracious and down-to-earth the Gaithers are and how they live their Christian faith. If the respondents were trying to make me feel better, I appreciated their efforts, but the bottom line was they had met them and I had not.
Then comes an email from Jane Cox, a loyal reader in suburban Atlanta.
She and her husband, Michael, not only know the Gaithers, they happen to be good friends. They also enjoy my column and said they would be happy to facilitate a meeting. God is good.
Getting it done wasn’t as easy as it sounds. It took a while. The Gaithers seem to be in perpetual motion — touring, writing, producing programs. To get them slowed down long enough to meet either of them is like catching lightning in a bottle. But to know Jane Cox is to know it was going to happen. A petite, engaging bundle of energy, she could make possums fly if she was of a mind to do so.
Finally, it came to pass. In December, the Gaither Christmas Concert came to the Woodstock First Baptist Church and we were there to see it with the Coxes. True to her word, I got to meet Bill Gaither before the show. God is really good.
To my delight, he was as gracious and kind as I had hoped he would be. Even though he was about to go on stage and entertain the awaiting crowd for a couple of hours, the man acted as if he had all the time in the world.
I had my picture made with him which will go on the wall in my office alongside those of three presidents, five U.S. senators, nine former governors, Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard (the only two Heisman Trophy winners to have played in the same backfield together — at Army), Vince Dooley and Cameron Charles Yarbrough among others. You have to be special to make my wall.
Speaking of special, Jane Cox wasn’t through. After a highly entertaining and inspirational show and more conversation with Bill Gaither, she proceeded to introduce me to several of the show’s performers. They had not the foggiest idea of who I was but if I was with Jane Cox, I had to be special.
So, boys and girls, I am pleased to say this completes my bucket list. And what a way to do it. To finally meet a class act I have long admired and to have two readers-turned-friends determined to make it happen. It was a dream come true. As I say, it is not always what you know as it is who you know. And I will forever be glad I know Jane and Michael Cox.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb.