Jason Wright: Make a list of those who’ve helped you along the way
Last Sunday I had the pleasure of attending “An evening with Broadway singer Sandra Turley and Family.” Sandra, her husband Josh, and their four children visited our humble town of Woodstock and the whole gang participated in the program.
Sandra spent three years playing the role of Cosette in “Les Miserables” and perhaps the best way to describe Sandra’s talent is with this observation from a good friend also in attendance that night. “She has one of those voices that when you first hear it, you think it can’t be real.”
People say that about my voice too, but for very different reasons. While Sandra blesses lives by singing around the world, I do the same by agreeing not to.
According to many in the audience, the highlight was her rendition of the renowned “For Good” from the smash musical “Wicked.” Sandra previously recorded the track for her CD, “Sandra Turley: On Broadway.”
It was stunning.
As she slowly unfurled the song, like a flag too big for the building, the lyrics struck me in a deeper way.
I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
I confess: Sandra’s voice continued dancing through the tune, but my mind stayed behind.
What came next was habit – I opened the journal I usually carry to events like that one – but what followed was not.
Having lingered on the lyrics, I began listing a few of the people who fit songwriter Stephen Schwartz’s vision. My mind imagined people who’ve come into my life for a season or more and from whom I’ve learned some very valuable lessons.
Stephen Fountain: One of my best friends in middle and high school. He’s a husband and father I admire for his deep devotion to God.
Charlotte Wellen: My high school forensics coach who taught me a mountain more than public speaking or performing a monologue.
Ray Goode: A friend much newer to my life, but someone I’ve quickly learned has the heart of a servant. His faith is both bold and humble – a rare combo.
The list stretched on and on. Former neighbors, fellow authors, editors, cousins, special readers, business partners, employers, church mentors.
They were Republicans, Democrats, Atheists, Baptists, Jews, Methodists, Mormons, and none of the above.
Hours later, reviewing my list and adding others, I was overwhelmed by the creation.
It was longer than I’d expected.
It was filled with names of some who were in the same room as Sandra sang those lovely lyrics.
But it also held names of friends I’ve not seen in many years.
And so it hit me; I’d created a “For Good” list.
Seeing the names written in my own scratchy handwriting – another talent best hidden from the world – was humbling.
God’s been good to me, I thought. Throughout my life, even when I’ve not deserved it (like, never), heaven’s hands have nudged me into the lives of some tremendous people.
It’s true. “(I’ve been) led to those who help (me) most to grow.”
When the sun rose the next morning, I quickly scanned my “For Good” list and gave thanks for the names I’d remembered. Then a few more came to me and I added them with an embarrassed grin.
I added Sandra, of course.
Over the coming weeks I’m sure I’ll pull out my “For Good” list again. I’ll read it on the good days, the bad days, and when I simply need a reminder that I’ve been surrounded by some terrific teachers throughout my life.
I bet you have, too.
May I challenge you to do the same? Make a running list of people you believe have been placed in your life to help you grow, as the song says, if you let them. And don’t forget those you’ve helped in return.
Keep it handy and review it often. It will bring you hope. And you just might find that more often than you realized, perhaps when you’ve least expected it, you’ve truly been changed for good.
(This week’s reader shoutout goes to Diane Garman. Thanks for reading!)
Jason F. Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including“Christmas Jars,” “The Wednesday Letters” and “The 13th Day of Christmas.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.