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A Song That Saves People By Benjamin Brus

07/30/2012 7:14 PM | Deleted user

A Song That Saves People

“A youth or man who sells newspapers on the street or delivers them to homes; newsboy.”

One blistery Michigan morning several years ago I was informed that one of my clients, an elderly woman, had asked for the contact information for her “paperboy.”


My friends were paperboys when I was in 4th grade. After all I had hoped for and dreamed of in life, is this all there was? 

For me, the experience of being a grown-up paperboy was one of those unpredictables; it just happened. I never dreamed about delivering the newspaper at 5 a.m. during a Christmas morning blizzard, or getting stuck in a customer’s driveway in sub-zero temperatures. I didn’t dream of rising every morning at 4 a.m. seven days a week out of necessity to work an entry-level, blue-collar job. I never planned on praying for tips so that I could bring home some good news to my wife.

I remember listening to Jason Harrod’s Messed Up Everywhere Blues on my route one winter morning and breaking down as I sat in my car listening to these words:

Jesus don’t you take my song away
That’s one thing I ask of you
Jesus won’t you let my clumsy fingers play
You know I only play for you

Walk the Line, a film chronicling the life of Johnny Cash, magnified my introspection. During a pivotal scene, Cash is auditioning before a major record producer, Sam Philips. Philips was less than impressed with Cash’s gospel music, and challenged Cash with the following:

If you was hit by a truck and you was lying out there in that gutter dying, and you had time to sing one song…One song that people would remember before you're dirt. One song that would let God know how you felt about your time here on Earth. One song that would sum you up. You tellin' me that's the song you'd sing? That same Jimmy Davis tune we hear on the radio all day, about your peace within, and how it's real, and how you're gonna shout it? Or... would you sing somethin' different. Somethin' real. Somethin' you felt. Cause I'm telling you right now, that's the kind of song people want to hear. That's the kind of song that truly saves people.

If you’re anything like me, you want your song to be different, or at least true to yourself and who you believe you were created to be. You want to sing a song that saves people. And if you’re anything like me, you would never have guessed what it would take to get there.

Defining Moments

We all have defining moments in our lives where things take a turn and the courses of our lives are forever changed. In screenwriting terms these are called “plot points.” The big ones are obvious, but many others are subtle, completely unpredictable and only become clear in hindsight.

I have heard that when you are in transition, the light is always behind you. Having transitioned out of my paperboy experience, one thing has become clear in the light: though choosing to be a paperboy wasn’t part of my plan, like many unpredictables we experience throughout our lives, being one had an immeasurable impact I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Have you ever experienced one of those “something’s?” Something that happened that you didn’t plan for or expect, yet you can’t imagine life without? Maybe it was a child you weren’t ready for, a relationship that ended, an unexpected career transition, or even an illness. But instead of decreasing the quality of your life, this “something” actually enhanced it by making you stronger, kinder, more grateful, or simply better.

I’ve heard that the hottest fires make the hardest steel. Interestingly, most of these hot fires come as a result of the unpredictables – and for good reason. Let’s face it: few of us would enter the fires voluntarily. But when we’re forced to face the heat, we become refined, purified, and stronger as a result. Most days, being a paperboy was a mental, emotional, and physical struggle.  Yet it changed my life by making my vision clear and providing me with the tools I needed for the rest of the journey. 

The Value of the Struggle

Wilma Rudolph was born prematurely in 1940, the 20th of a family of 21 children. At birth, she weighed 4.5 lbs. As a child, her left leg and foot were twisted due to infantile paralysis. Additionally, Rudolph twice contracted double pneumonia, as well as scarlet fever. To straighten her twisted leg and foot, she wore a brace for three years and made regular, 45-mile trips to Nashville for treatment over the course of six years. Her determination as a child was relentless. Against her doctor’s (and parents’) orders while at home, she often removed her brace and attempted to walk around the house. She eventually built enough strength to walk brace-free, and quickly took advantage of her new found freedom.

Rudolph’s determination reached a peak in high school, where she began to excel in basketball as well as track and field. After her childhood challenges, Rudolph accomplished the unimaginable by setting scoring records and leading her team to the state basketball championship. If her story ended there, “miraculous” would be a fitting way to describe it. Yet at age 16, she continued her success streak, earning a bronze medal at the Olympics – an incredible feat. But Rudolph didn’t stop there. Four years later, she won three gold medals at the 1960 games in Rome – setting three new records – and was the first woman ever to win three gold medals in track and field.

I love Wilma Rudolph’s story, but what I appreciate even more is what she said in hindsight: “Believe me, the reward is not so great without the struggle.”

When we view challenges, difficulties, and struggles as avenues to growth, the effect is empowering instead of debilitating. As Maya Angelou said, “I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.” I realized that being a paperboy did not need to define me; it was simply a means by which I could earn a living for a season of life. Sometimes hearing about another’s situation or struggles is exactly what we need to put ours into perspective, and can empower us to interpret our circumstances in a positive light. The best changes in our lives often do not consist of a change in circumstances, but a change in perspective.

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