A few years ago I got to see one of my all time favorite singers in concert. James Taylor played a concert in a relatively small venue in Springfield, MO. It was a night of singing along with old familiar songs.
As is typical with live performances, there was an intermission a little more than half way through the set of songs for the evening. Such intermissions are typically an opportunity for the performer to head backstage, catch their breath, maybe change clothes, and prepare for the rest of the show.
This intermission was different. While his band and back-up vocalists went backstage, James perched himself on the very front of the stage. With his feet dangling over the edge, he sat there greeting his fans, signing autographs, and patently listening to stories from his fans. He was so engaged with the people in that venue.
Though I did not venture down to visit with him, I did remain in my seat, just watching as this famous performer laughed and smiled with members of the audience. He was so engaged with the audience that he seemed oblivious to the fact when his band and vocalists had returned to stage. They waited a couple of minutes, and then began playing the intro to the next song. It was almost as though James was trying to ignore them. He wanted to stay there, legs dangling, just being a friend.
Finally, he said his goodbyes to those gathered around him, and made his way back to his guitar and microphone. More great music followed.
There was a story that the newspapers picked up on from earlier in that tour. He was scheduled to perform in Evansville, Indiana, and on the day of his performance, was out riding around on his bicycle.
As the story goes, he was wearing a t-shirt, grubby shorts, and sneakers for his ride around Evansville’s downtown area when he came across a small shop called Fire and Rain. The shop, as it turns out, was owned by a couple who were big James Taylor fans. They had named the shop after one of his best known songs, “Fire and Rain.”
One would expect such dedicated fans to instantly recognize the man whose song title was displayed proudly on the sign in the storefront window. They were polite when James entered, but showed no signs of recognizing him. It turns out they thought this he was a member of the local homeless population, in for a drink of water, or just to escape the heat and enjoy some air conditioning.
James played along with their failure to recognize him. He acted the part of the disinterested homeless man.
It was when the shopkeepers got him to speak that they realized who James was. He was the very man they were excited about seeing in concert later that very day. Laughter and pictures followed.
The attitude demonstrated by James Taylor, both on stage and in that shop, remind me of what true humility looks like. James knew that his fans were the reason for night after night of sold out venues. He honored those fans with both his time and his talent.
In the shop called Fire and Rain, he didn’t feel the need to be recognized. He didn’t thump his chest, demanding special treatment. Nor did he become angry when the owners of the shop mistook home for someone who was homeless.
In both of these instances, James Taylor demonstrated the truth about humility. His actions spoke volumes, proving that he thought no more highly of himself than of others. He expressed gratitude toward others, and confidence in himself.
“Fire and Rain” is such an amazing song. It’s one that talks about life’s ups and downs. It talks about love and loss. Through its words, James Taylor reveals a piece of his heart, sharing it with his audience. You see, in it, James refers to three very personal things in his life. The first verse is about a friend who committed suicide. The second verse refers to James’ heroine addiction. The third and final verse is about a mental hospital.
James Taylor, it turns out, is one of us. He is an addict. He knows all too well the pain and heartache that come with the disease of addiction. His life demonstrates the fact that there is hope for the addict. That we can and do recover. That our lives can have significance.
I will never write songs that become famous. People will never pay to fill an auditorium to here me speak (certainly not to sing!). Those things are not a part of my story, and that’s ok. Humility teaches me that I don’t need to be like someone else. I don’t need fame. I don’t need a shop named in honor of my work.
Humility teaches me that I simply need to be the person I was designed to be. Finding comfort in my own skin, and fulfillment in life’s role for me.
In the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous, each of us has the opportunity to impact fellow addicts in the way James Taylor’s songs impact his audience. By sharing honestly, openly, and with humility, each of us can make a difference.
Have a remarkable day!