I have always prided myself on being…or at least trying to be…a glass-half-full kind of guy.
I try to look for the best in people, in places, and in situations, I find myself in, regardless of how negative they might seem at the time. But I’ll admit…I’ve struggled just like many of you in trying to find something good inside this crazy Coronavirus pandemic and the stay-at-home, social distancing rules that we’ve been forced to follow for the past several months. It hasn’t been easy, but I was sitting around this past Sunday afternoon looking at life through my rose-colored glasses, and I’ve decided that something good is going to come out of all this by the time it’s finally over. Maybe it already has.
Don’t get me wrong…the illnesses and the deaths and the losses we’ve all suffered are not taken lightly. I’ve lost friends to the virus. I have others who have been extremely sick, including my own manager. Even more, are struggling financially. I’ve gone to bed at night fearful that the virus might strike me and my family. I’ve washed my hands more in the past five months than I did in the previous five years. I’ve worn the mask and the gloves on the rare occasions when I have dared to venture out, and I know we’re not out of the woods yet by any means. But maybe there are lessons to be learned from what we’ve had to endure. And maybe…just maybe…when this is all in our rearview mirrors, we will have become better, stronger, kinder people who will have learned some valuable life lessons along the way.
Take my house, for example. I have lived in the same place for a little over twenty years, longer than I’ve lived any one place in my life. But I have discovered during these past few months that as much as I love it, it’s probably really never been my “home.”
“Home” for most of my life has been the back of a tour bus, a seat on an airplane, a strange hotel in a strange town somewhere, backstage and onstage at a performance venue full of friendly but often unfamiliar faces. My house was the place I left from and the place I came back to, but was it ever really home? Not like it has been lately for sure.
I have three outdoor seating areas attached to my house…one facing east toward the morning sun, one facing south, and one facing west toward the sunset. I love those decks and patios…and I’ve loved times in the past when I’ve been able to entertain friends and family there, standing outside gazing at the lake in my back yard. But in my hectic, always-something-to-do lifestyle, I have never just sat out on one of the decks and watched the world go by….listening to the birds sing, watching the squirrels play, laughing at the ducks and geese who wander up to bathe in the pond beside my little waterfall.
I was walking from my front deck out into my yard the other day when the postman drove by. He stopped, we waved, and suddenly he leaned out the door of his little truck. “I’m really lucky,” he said. “I get to deliver mail to the greatest singer/songwriter who’s ever lived.”
I started to ask him if Willie Nelson had moved to town, but I didn’t. I could tell he was sincere, so I just smiled and said, “Thank you very much. I really appreciate that.” And he drove away.
Late on Easter morning, I had gone out to retrieve the Sunday newspaper from my driveway when a neighbor drove by, stopped, rolled down his car window, and wished me a Happy Easter. I wished him the same, and keeping my distance, moved closer so we could talk. I picked up the smell of hot food coming from inside his car. “Wow, somebody has gotten some good-smelling take-out,” I offered, and he told me where he had purchased it.
“I bought more than we’ll ever eat,” he said. “If you’re gonna be home, I’ll bring you some.” Sure enough, a few minutes later he was at my door with ham, scalloped potatoes, green beans, and all the trimmings. Plus, his small kids had asked him to also deliver to “Mr. Bill” a couple of their brightly-colored Easter eggs and some Easter candy. I was blown away.
And here’s the ironic part: Had we not been in our current stay-at-home situation, I would have not been home the day the mailman stopped, and I’d have been in the back of a tour bus returning from some shows in Texas on Easter Sunday.
A couple of mornings later, my next-door neighbor phoned and told me she was going to the grocery store. “Can I get anything for you?” she asked. And then, before I could give her my shortlist, she said, “I’ve finished reading a couple of books you might enjoy. I’ll leave them in your mailbox.” And she did.
So what am I trying to say here? Not much other than I have actually enjoyed some of the downtime that I’ve been forced into taking. I have enjoyed sitting out on my decks staring at the natural, God-given beauty all around me. I’ve enjoyed getting to know and experience my neighbors in a whole new way.
Oh sure, I’ve been inside the house strumming on a guitar trying to write some new songs. I’ve been answering fan mail and business mail just like I always do. I’ve had bills to pay just like everybody else. I’ve missed going into the recording studio, missed going out to see my friends, and performing at the Grand Ole Opry, and I’ve missed driving into town to eat lunch and hang out with my buddies. I’ve missed being out on tour and visiting with you. And, sadly, I’ve been unable to go and say goodbye to some very close friends who have, unfortunately, passed away during this time. That’s been especially tough.
But I’ve also had time to put some chicken into the slow cooker (Thanks, Gus Arrendale!), talk and text with my kids and grandkids without having to go take care of something “important.” I’ve even let my whiskers grow out a bit on days when I simply didn’t feel like shaving. And you know what? The world hasn’t ended because of it.
In fact, I may just be appreciating the beautiful things, the natural things, the simple things, and the special people this ol’ world has to offer more right now than ever before.
I guess it all depends on how you look at the glass.