I just finished watching an inspiring documentary called “Still Bill” on one of the greatest songwriters of our day, Mr. Bill Withers. If you’re young and somewhat ignorant like me and the name Bill Withers does not ring any bells, maybe the names of these songs will: Ain’t No Sunshine, Lean on Me, Just the Two of Us… Now is it ringing any bells? Are you singing yet?

Funny thing is I actually met Bill years ago at his home in California as I was about 13 years old, not having the slightest idea who he was, other than the fact that he was someone famous and important. My mom was hired to help them with a party and I was hanging around trying to help, trying not to get in the way. Bill just kept telling me to relax while his wife kept giving me things to do. They were genuine. They were real. They loved people. It was apparent that they enjoyed life and that they had a kind of wise perspective on life that few knew.

I believe that Bill is someone who has “gained the whole world” but has not “forfeited his soul.” As I watched this documentary of his life, it became clear to me why he had not lost his soul in his meteoric rise from obscurity to stardom. He was rooted and grounded in faith by his mother and grandmother. He was taught the value of work by his father. He fought the hurt inflicted by the loss of his father at 13 and a speech impediment in his childhood. The people he encountered who refused to believe he’d accomplish anything noteworthy at all. At the age of thirty three he was a mechanic who installed toilets on airplanes. He had a few songs that he thought may be worth something, so he let some people hear them. His songs hit the charts and he flushed his toilet job for life as a full time musician.

However, after meeting his wife and starting a family, the fame he found was just not worth it to him anymore. Rather, he was content to raise a family and make music in the privacy of his home. People wonder why he stopped “chasing the dream.” He had gone there and back and found it lacking.

If you’ve read my earlier posts, you’ll know that I’m all for a healthy dose of ambition and drive. It is intolerable to me when people celebrate mediocrity by throwing away their own gifts and not using what God gave them all in the name of modesty. However, in the pursuit of our dreams, we need to ask ourselves, what are we really after in this life? Is it money, security, notoriety, validation from others? Are we seeking something for ourselves, or are we spending ourselves for the benefit of others? Bill is convinced that as we get older, we turn our attention more and more to the concerns of others. That is an optimistic outlook… I sure hope we do.

I hope it doesn’t take all of us worldwide fame and riches to get a clue that such things will not answer the desperation of our souls. Maybe regular folks like us can find our satisfaction before we “get there” maybe on the way. By the time we “get there,” maybe the satisfaction of the goal will just be icing on the cake, the byproduct of an already fully satisfied life. Some of us may, for an unforeseen reason, be stopped just short of “getting there.” Life happens.

For us believers, we will have an eternity to create, to accomplish, to be all that we were created to be. If God wants you to live a life of accomplishment and fame, so be it. If “it” happens, you won’t find that you’ve suddenly turned into some kind of demigod. If it happens to me, I’ll still be me. If it happens to you, you’ll still be you, just like Bill Withers is “Still Bill.” You’ll still have the same annoying quirks, you’ll still need to have your socks and underwear washed just like everyone else. It’s not the big deal we make it. There is so much more waiting for us we cannot even imagine. It’s not what we have in this life, it’s what we do with what we have that will count. Don’t take my word for it; just wait and see. In the meantime, how about you be you and I’ll be me?

  1. Cathy says:

    Hmmmmmm…… Those last few sentences read like they could be a song. If you make it one, can I get some royalties?

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