December 22, 2011 at 3:07 pm , by Ron Kelly
I’ve been writing the Nashville Diaries blog for five months now and things are getting pretty serious between us, wouldn’t you say? I guess that means I can share a secret with you then: I cried when I watched Taylor Swift’s 60 Minutes special over Thanksgiving. I bawled like a little baby, wondering what had overcome me. I guess what overwhelmed me was the way she answered her questions with such poise, all the clips of young girls crying and screaming for her at her concerts, and ultimately my desire to someday affect people the same way she does.
Still, when I saw her at a Christmas party the other day I couldn’t bring myself to tell her how much she had inspired me, let alone even just introduce myself. I’m still wondering why I hesitated—and it’s not that I’m too cool for school (which, by the way, is overrated and dumb). I think it was just that I was afraid of bothering someone who probably hears praise like that all the time yet, when I think about it, that makes no sense at all. True, the saying goes, “If you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all,” but I think there should also be a saying that goes, “If you have something nice to say, then by all means, say it!” Well, at least I’ve confessed my sob session to you all and I’ve put it out there in the universe. In the future, though, I’ll try to remember that it’s never inappropriate to pay someone a heartfelt compliment, and that applies to all times of the year, not just when spreading Christmas cheer! (Rhyming is cool.)
Truth be told, emotions always run a little high for me around the holidays. The music business winds down for a bit this time of year and I’m, of course, excited about the holidays but I’m also anxious to tie up various loose ends before everyone takes a break. Don’t even get me started on my tendency to procrastinate when it comes to Christmas shopping. Luckily I have two very proactive sisters who have helped me quickly and painlessly get the shopping done for my family.
So much has happened in the past months that it seems like Christmas has totally snuck up on me. I’m getting ready to put a single out in March (I can’t wait for you all to hear it!) and a full album shortly after, so I’ve been in the studio working on getting everything just right. I also recently opened for Jason Aldean during CMA week in downtown Nashville right by the Riverfront, which was … AWESOME! I’m a big Jason Aldean fan so it was so much fun to share the stage with him. We were promoting an AMC show called Hell on Wheels, which has some very ruggedly handsome men and a post Civil War revenge plot—juicy stuff! I attended the CMA awards the next day, which was fun and surreal. I also spent a day giving interviews to all the radio stations that had traveled to Nashville to broadcast from Music City during CMA week. And then, last but not least, the LHJ Nashville Diaries Sweepstakes winners—Angie and her 10-year-old nephew, Jake—visited me. We got to hang out in the studio and Jake laid down some smooth vocals on one of my new songs!
While I’ve been keeping busy with my music, I also got to visit two incredible hospitals, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. I performed for some of the wounded soldiers and their families at Walter Reed and then walked through the facilities and saw the physical therapy room. While I was there a very outgoing soldier named Steve came over to our group and introduced himself. He was 24 and missing both legs from the knee down, but he wasn’t accepting any sympathy. In fact, he joked with me: “Hey, my feet don’t get cold in the winter and I don’t have to worry about leg room when I travel.” He used prosthetic legs to make laps around the indoor track in the physical therapy room. Steve and all his brothers and sisters who put themselves in harm’s way inspire and humble me, and it was comforting to see that Walter Reed was caring for both their emotional and physical health.
At St. Jude I met Owen, 6, who has leukemia. He talked to me all about how he wears his Ohio State Buckeyes shirt every Friday when he visits his doctor, who is also a Buckeyes fan—even though Owen’s dad is an Alabama fan (roll Tide!). His dad, wearing his Crimson Tide shirt, just smiled while Owen proudly declared his alliance to Ohio State. Owen also told me how he asked for donations to be made to St. Jude’s in place of birthday presents last year and that his older sister and her best friend followed suit. Then I met Leslie, a 13-year-old songwriter who uses her condition as writing material. And I also met Luke, 17, who has bone cancer. He told me he plans to tell his future girlfriends that the scar on his leg is from a shark attack he survived! I helped him come up with a few other tales in case he gets tired of that one. (Saving children from a burning school bus was my favorite suggestion.)
The people I had the privilege of visiting—the soldiers, the children, the doctors and nurses who care for them and the families that love them—fill me with awe for the resiliency of the human spirit. They all understand how precious life is and treat every new day as a gift. Given the opportunity to greet Taylor Swift, I know that Leslie, the 13-year-old songwriter, would not hesitate. She would march right up to the megastar and enthusiastically say, “You inspire me!” Next time I’m feeling tentative, I’ll be sure to think of Leslie … and Steve … and Owen … and Luke.
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