My grandfather on my mom’s side was one of my heroes. He grew up poor on a farm, suffered pneumonia as a child, and had half a lung removed (this was before penicillin). He was so inspired by the experience that he pursued a career in medicine. As a child, he would send away for books, fifteen or so at a time, read them all, and then send them back before they were due. He worked his way through med school to become a pediatrician and family practitioner. For years, he’d charge just $1.00 for his check-ups. Sometimes, those who couldn’t afford it would pay him with a chicken or some produce from their farms. He made house calls until he finally retired.
For his 90th birthday, we took out an ad in the Baltimore Sun asking former patients to write with well wishes and to share their memories. We received hundreds of cards. I’ve read through them all, and time after time I read “He was so caring” and “He was so gentle.” He welled up with tears when we gave him the cards. “I thought they’d all forgotten,” he said. Love like that is never forgotten.
Last year, I wrote a song in honor of my grandfather, about his hands and the legacy they left behind. It’s been heavy on my mind as I contemplate the meaning and purpose of my own life. What would people write in cards to me for my 90th birthday? What do I want my life to be about? I know that, at my core, I am a musician, but that is just the language with which I engage this world. It’s the medium and not the message. There are things that I see in this world, things I want to say, changes I want to nurture, a difference I hope to make.
Today, I am releasing my first single ever, a recording of the song for my grandfather, “These Hands.” Its a song to honor his spirit and his caring. And in that spirit, I will donate half of any profits from the song in this next year to Health Care for the Homeless, an organization working in Maryland, and particularly in Baltimore, to provide medical services to the homeless. Of course, I would love your support. Buy a copy of the song, gift it to a friend, share it on Facebook and all that.
But Health Care for the Homeless can also use your support more directly. Consider making a financial donation or check out some other ways to help on their website. If my grandfather’s legacy moves you, if that kind of lasting compassion inspires you…help it grow today.