I was not expecting anyone to be there. I had just stopped by my friend’s apartment to wait for her sister-in-law so we could practice a duet for church the following Sunday. Beckie was not home and didn’t think Sam would be there, either. But he was. And I was really uncomfortable. I walked in the apartment, startled to find him home and a little afraid because you never knew with Sam in those days, what kind of mood he was going to be in.
I quickly set the guitar down in the corner and tried to make conversation while I waited for his sister, Dawn to arrive. They came from a wonderful Christian family. Their Dad had passed away when they were children, but their mother had raised them all to love and serve God. Sam was a tough one, though. I never knew what brought him to that place but he was far from the faith and the God his mother loved and served. He didn’t think much of church people, either, and didn’t mind telling you why. Problem is, there was a whole lot of truth in what he said.
After a few minutes of attempted conversation interspersed with awkward silences, I heard him say in his gruff southern drawl, “well, you gonna play that thing or not?” I was opting for ‘not’ but the more I declined, the more he insisted I sing something for him. You didn’t argue with Sam. I silently cried out to God for help and with a quivering voice began to sing one of my favorite B.J. Thomas tunes (written by Archie P. Jordan and Claire D. Cloninger):
You gave me time when no one gave me time of day;
You looked deep inside while the rest of the world looked away;
You smiled at me when there were just frowns everywhere;
You gave me love when nobody gave me a prayer.
“Well, don’t stop now,” he said, so I began another one, “He’s the hand on my shoulder when I need to know someone cares; He’s the hand on my shoulder, assuring me that He’s always there …” (another one written by Archie P. Jordan). I kept singing but was quite relieved when his sister arrived several songs later and I considered myself rescued. Although Sam never said a word, I could tell his heart was touched. And while I didn’t say anything, either, I was afraid he could hear my heart pounding on my way out the door!
Several months later, upon hearing that my husband had accepted a job offer in New York, Sam told me I had better not leave without making a tape for him, which I did, and it never occurred to me to offer up my usual excuses. It was Sam, after all. Years passed. Family and friends prayed but it seemed as though Sam was too far gone to ever be reached and perhaps he was. That is, until God intervened in a big way.
Imagine my surprise one evening as I picked up the phone to hear Beckie and Sam on the line, overjoyed at what God had done in their lives. Sam had been battling leukemia and during his time in the hospital for a bone marrow transplant, he was miraculously saved – their marriage restored. He was a new man! I rejoiced as he told me the story of how God had changed his life. I cried when he reminded me of that old tape of mine that he played until he wore it out.
Sam is in Heaven now but I often reflect on that little concert for one, as well as others I have been privileged to experience in my life: singing to my Dad via cassette tape as he recovered from a heart attack, and for my big brother serving in the military; ministering in the universal language of music to our Italian neighbor in Sicily who always seemed to appear on the balcony whenever I was practicing; serenading my children from the living room at night after they’d gone to bed; strumming my guitar and whispering some well-loved hymns for my Mom in her final days as she prepared to meet her Savior. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything, not even “success” in the music business as some people might define it.
I may never be famous. I’m okay with that. It’s highly unlikely I’ll ever sing to huge crowds with people lined up to meet me. I don’t know that I’ll ever hear any of my songs on the radio, and I may never have enough time in this life to share all the music God has planted in my soul. But I will never forget, nor will I ever regret being available to God for those special events He booked in advance for this sold-out singer at His concerts for one.