A while back my daughter, Esther and I, went to a Brenda Lee concert here in Atlanta, Georgia. Many of you may remember Brenda Lee for her Rock-n-Roll and Country hits back in the 1950’s and 1960’s. She was born in Atlanta and grew up here in Georgia. Since I have always enjoyed her music, and since my daughter, Esther, is such a talented singer, I thought it would be an enjoyable experience. And it was! Brenda Lee sang all of her top hits like: “All Alone Am I”, “Sweet Nothin’s”, “Jambalaya”, “Break it to Me Gently”, “Coming on Strong”, and many others. The audience adored her!
She was only 4’ 9” tall, so after recording the song, “Dynamite”, in 1957, she began to be known as Little Miss Dynamite. She is a member of the Rock-n-Roll, Country Music and Rockabilly Hall of Fame. She is best known for her 1960 hit, “I’m Sorry”.
During the 1960’s, Brenda Lee had thirty-seven music chart hits; a number that was only surpassed by Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Ray Charles, and Connie Frances. Many of us recognize her holiday hit, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”, because it has been played for over fifty years during the Christmas season. You will soon be hearing it as you are shopping during this Christmastime!
After completing her medley of famous songs, she did two things that really touched my heart. She said to the audience, “You know, even when you sing a lot of great songs, you miss a lot of wonderful songs, too. I want to now sing a medley of songs that I had the opportunity to do but passed up because at the time, I didn’t think they were very good.” She went on to sing songs like “Working 9 to 5” by Dolly Parton, and “Walking after Midnight” by Patsy Cline. She sang about ten different songs that all became famous hits; yet, she had passed them up in her career. All of us in the audience “groaned” through that medley because we felt so sorry that she had guessed wrong about the future of those now famous hit records.
When she finished, she said, “Regardless of how good you get in any industry, you are still going to make mistakes. I’ve made a lot of them in my life! I am so grateful that all those other singers had the opportunity to have famous songs.” And, she was genuinely happy for them. Her humility touched me because she gave credit and paid tribute to other singers who had done well in their lives and careers.
About halfway through her performance, she did the second thing that touched my heart even more. She began to talk about her fourth grade teacher. Brenda Lee attended elementary school in Georgia. She talked about how her fourth grade teacher had always believed in her and encouraged her, even when she was just a little girl. She spoke about the power of parents believing in their children and teachers believing in their students. She said, “You can never tell how a kind word of encouragement to a child will help them as they grow up.” Then she surprised all of us by asking her fourth grade teacher to stand up! She had been invited to the concert and was there in the audience with us. Of course, by this time of her life, she had become an elderly lady, but you could see the smile on her face as she stood up and waved to all of us! She was so thrilled that Brenda Lee had taken the time to invite her to come to the concert.
Who would have ever thought, that years and years ago a fourth grade teacher being kind to a ten-year old little girl would have charted a course that would indirectly have affected millions of people? I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes, to realize the powerful influence that parents and teachers have with children.
As we enter the holiday season, let me encourage you to have some extra kind words for your students and children. Go out of your way to show your faith in them and encourage them. Those words will remain in their hearts and help them as they grow up. And, who knows? Maybe one day their concert will come to town and they will have YOU stand up to talk about how much you meant to them in their personal life as they were growing up!
You never can tell where your kind words of support and encouragement will lead. I would be willing to bet that Brenda Lee’s fourth grade teacher never thought she would make such a big difference in a little girl’s life, but she did. The same can be true of you!
Tip: Always encourage your children and students!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm