To: Bill Gaither
Somewhere safely (I hope) in Alexandria, Indiana
You probably don’t remember me, but we met briefly backstage a couple of years ago before your Christmas concert at the Woodstock First Baptist Church.
The opportunity came about as a result of a lot of whining, wheedling and shameless self-pity in this space over the years about wanting to meet you. I have met a lot of famous people in my time, but you were at the top of my bucket list because I love gospel music and you are to gospel music what banana pudding is to the food chain. My favorite.
Finally, your friend and mine, Jane Cox, took pity on me (or got tired of reading my whining, wheedling and shameless self-pity) and arranged an introduction with you. You didn’t disappoint. Even though you had only a few minutes before opening the concert, you were as gracious and kind and genuine as I had hoped you would be.
The thing I remember most about that concert in Woodstock was that you seemed to be having as good a time as anybody during that show. As I recall, you were coming to the end of the tour and I am sure you and all the performers that evening were tired and ready to get home for the holidays. But it didn’t show.
You even took the time to have our picture made together which pretty much blew away any remaining planks on my bucket list. As we speak today, the photo sits on the desk in my office along with three presidents, five U.S. senators, nine governors, Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard (the only two Heisman Trophy winners to have played in the same backfield together — at Army), Vince Dooley, Andrew Young and Cameron Charles Yarbrough, a young man who gives meaning to the term great, as in great-grandson. You must be special to make my wall. You are and you did.
So, why am I writing? Being a modest and much-beloved columnist isn’t as easy as I make it look. You need to have the hide of a rhino because strong opinions begat strong reactions. While I have been known to get an occasional broadside from some righteously indignant soul who disagrees with me or with something I said, the pandemic seems to have created a whole new gaggle of fussbudgets. I guess having to stay in place gives them more time to get worked up over stuff and then to work me over. Frankly, I could do without the honor.
For example, a reader recently informed me that I was a tin horn (I was excited because I thought it meant that I could play the saxophone until I looked it up. Rats.) I have been called a fake, dangerous, uninformed, a Donald Trump apologist by a left-winger while a right-winger was taking umbrage at me for criticizing the president. I even had somebody defending lizard-loafered lobbyists (or maybe it was lizards. I never quite figured that one out.)
But not all my mail is from grumpsters and that is the reason for my note to you. I also get some positive mail, especially those referring me to YouTube snippets featuring the Gaither Vocal Band as well as some of your Homecoming shows. I watch them all and I am uplifted by them all. To quote my favorite gospel composers (Wink! Wink!), when I click on the site, I just feel like something good is about to happen. And it does.
A wise man once told me that our only purpose for being on this earth is to leave it better than we found it. On rare occasions I may do that with something I say that touches someone deeply. That is a good and humbling experience.
You and your wife and writing partner, Gloria, do that on a regular basis. Every time. All the time. Whether it is “The King is Coming” or “He Touched Me” or any of the 700 or more songs you two have written, you have made this a better world and have given us a promise of something better yet to come.
I know the pandemic has caused you to have to cancel or postpone a number of upcoming events, but it has not lessened the positive impact you have had and continue to have on a lot of lives. You are the light at the end of this dark tunnel. Keep on shining.
•Dick Yarbrough is a four-time winner of the Best Humor Column by the Georgia Press Association. Reach him at email@example.com or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.