[This is a lengthy, against-basic-blog-rules post. Please give it a couple paragraphs at least. And, if so inclined, kindly comment, re-post, email, link, etc. Much appreciated.]
In mid-2008, a woman emailed a question to me that, to put it mildly, caught me off guard. She essentially asked, "My Husband is a big fan of your music. He has terminal cancer. Would you sing at his funeral?"
Let me pause to set something straight because I'm a worrier. As Brent Bourgeois once wrote in a song lyric, "I still have an ego the size of Montana and change". (I wish I'd written that line but I'll have to settle for it being true about me. With attribution, I've quoted it for years.) Still, I don't walk around thinking, "Hey, don't you know who I am?" I live my life in anonymity the vast majority of the time. But it's also true over the years, I've been blessed with a modest life in music and many folks who listened to my music made it a part of the soundtrack of their lives. I'm a listener first and foremost, so I absolutely understand how that works. I have my own highly personal list of artists and songs who comprise my own soundtrack.
So even though, in one sense, it was no big deal … it's just me ... it DID mean something to him, his Wife, and his Family and Friends gathered. My apparently-obligatory wrestling with modesty aside, what's not to love about that? The fact is we all won big-time that night.
A dear friend lost a large-man's-worth of weight on a medically-supervised program. He had his life back, he frolicked with his young Son, he worked out at the gym, life was very good. Until he had a sudden stroke, went into ICU in a coma and, ultimately, did not recover. I was at the hospital with mutual friends and his family the day it happened. Despite the fact that he was in a coma I thoght, "I want to sing for him. Until he's not here, he's still here." (I'm told that there's good reason to believe that a coma we observe externally does not necessarily mean that's all there is to the situation at hand.) At best, he might be able to hear. If not, I can still worship God in the same room with him and trust the Holy Spirit will know how to sort out the value and consequences of the thing. So I sang four songs in his ICU room with his Wife, Son, and a couple Grandparents present. It was a curious mix of somber, solace, and yet surprisingly, joy peeking through the circumstances. Again, so glad I was able to do it. I got as much as I gave.
A month ago, I played a concert in Atascadero, a couple hundred miles north of where I live in Southern California. At intermission (again with the snacks), one of the event volunteers remarked, "I have a dear friend who wanted to come tonight but he's recovering from a serious stroke and sometimes it's difficult for him to get out at night. He really wanted to come." So, I know you're ahead of me now … the next day I played a private House Concert for him and his Wife. Geesh, you'd have thought Elvis showed up. It was only me, but by virtue of all those albums over the years, we had a history of sorts even though I met him for the first time that afternoon.
Shortly after Atascadero, a dear woman who is, for all intents and purposes, the sister I never had goes in for serious surgery. Things went about as poorly as they could have gone and now she's facing a much longer and rockier road to recovery. But when I heard about it, it was clear as day ... I called her Husband and when the time was right I was singing at her bedside in the hospital. It's something I know how to do, it took an hour, I wanted to do it, and she appreciated the musical visit.
So, here's where all of this leading to: As I age, so my audience ages. Although I have no way of measuring the numbers of people who have listened (or still listen) over these many years, I'm less concerned about those statistics than I normally would be. The point is, nationwide, among that specifically-defined-group of people some are terminally ill, in poor health with an unknown prognosis, etc.
I want to make it part of my work to visit and sing for people in these circumstances whenever I'm able to do so. The most stupid-but-accurate way to describe this (with apologies to the many organizations that do this for real and do it quite well): A "Make-a-Bob-Bennett-Wish Foundation" is the skeletal idea/model for I'm thinking of. You'll just have to trust me that my intentions are as good as I know how to make them. There is no posturing, no con, no bait-and-switch, etc.
If out-of-town travel is required, I'm not currently situated to pay for that. I can gladly donate my time to perform a House Call Concert, but I don't have the finances yet to say to a Person or Family, "I'll take care of everything, let's just schedule a time and do it."
I'd like to start a foundation or use some other method to fund the travel, lodging, etc. that would be necessary. And I would absolutely hope for paying gigs surrounding a House Call Concert. If I'm in St. Louis to sing for someone on a Saturday morning, I would love to fill in Friday/Saturday evenings and Sunday AM-PM with other bill-paying gigs. But the goal would be to make this as free/no-cost as possible to those who are probably as financially stretched-thin as they'll ever be.
Now it would be easy to do this wrong or unwisely. I need feedback and ideas on how to do it. I need to know whether you think it's a worthwhile idea, and even though I have almost none of this worked out, I need to know if this prompts you to think of someone specific who might appreciate a House Call Concert.
Again, I would sing for anyone. This idea is not meant to be exclusionary. But it would be most helpful and, I hope, most effective if I'm singing for someone who already knows of me and wants to hear a few of the songs only I can sing. Perhaps this is analogous to a food item. If I'm laid up and a diet of hospital food until the doctor finally okays a cheeseburger from the outside, any good burger would probably do. But given that my favorite is specifically an "In-N-Out Double-Double", that specific medicine would be good indeed! Similar thing here.
Eventually, House Call Concerts might become a make-a-musical make-a-wish group to connect other artists with their own fans who are in dire straits. (I've received very positive feedback from a couple artists who are close pals. They've said, "When you get it going, count me in."
Please pardon the weaknesses of this as a "blog post", kindly consider the ideas within, and let me know what you think. And, in an abundance of caution and given my penchant for sometimes making simple things too complicated: I am NOT asking you for money. If something develops where I do seek outside funding, I'll spread that as far and wide as I can and people can opt-in for more information or move on as needed.
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For those who pray, I'd appreciate a sentence or two Heavenward about this.
"House Call Concerts" - I want to make it part of my Job.