It felt like we needed about three times the space and twice the amount of time as my video production crew got into place for an interview we were doing with acclaimed Texas singer songwriter Robert Earl Keen. The five of us had piled into the back of Keens tour bus for the first of what would be two interviews with him for a national television special about his life and music.
Keen stepped over one of the videographers and slid onto the seat next to me as we angled to get a shot that looked a little more spacious than where we actually were. We were scheduled to go to his ranch the following week where we’d have other interviews walking through his pastures and touring his ‘writing room,’ but tonight he was taking the stage in less than an hour, so both the time and location were a tight squeeze.
Having listened to his music for years and having researched him for my piece, I wasn’t surprised that after only a few questions, I knew I already had enough material for a great story. (As a reporter you discover quickly that there are plenty of people who love to talk, but few who actually have much to say.) Robert Earl Keen was one of those extraordinary people who made every word count. He didn’t just answer questions, he gave rich thoughtful responses that sounded more like poetry than a reply.
He effortlessly quoted lyrics from songs, passages from Authors and Poets. He wove in fascinating facts and history and humor. He smiled and laughed while always looking directly into the camera (which is harder than you’d think) And graciously answered every question as though it was even marginally as well crafted as his thoughts.
We filmed his performance that night, and days later at his ranch as he rode horses, wrote songs, and talked to us more about life as a troubadour. The half hour television special about Robert Earl Keen aired and did well enough to get three encore showings.
But the story I didn’t write was what people like Robert Earl Keen teach about living life well. How nothing extraordinary happens with ordinary thinking. How every award winning song writer has pages and pages of chords but no words. Or a verse but no chords. And how you can never be too busy or too tired to listen well and read a lot. Even if it means reading a book late at night or reciting poetry and history facts (he knows at least ten interesting facts about every US President including their birthday, where they were born, what day they took office and their favorite book.) until it’s more engrained than memorized. Information is a powerful tool. And even random facts can seep into the fabric of how we think, challenging us to be more than what we have personally experienced.
Going so far outside our comfort zone that we give way to the miraculous. Stretching our way of thinking so far that we will likely see results different than what we’ve known.
“Will there ever be a time when you feel like you’ve read the last book you want to read or written your last song,” I asked Keen as we sat in the adobe walled writing room on his property. “Oh I hope not,” he said then falling silent. “I will have left this earth before having really left it, if that day ever comes,” Keen said. He picked at his guitar and looked up adding, “What man could ever say I’ve learned enough…I have no more to give.”
Throughout time the great scientists, inventors, and Artists have all shared a love of discovery. A new idea that leads to a better something. Whether it’s an invention that advances health care or a new way to combine a set of chords and words, change is the hallmark of greatness.
“If there was ever an industry that should be defined by creative innovative ideas it should be the Faith based products and retail industry,” said Edward Roush, Chairman of CBA Service Corporation. Roush whose chaired The Roush Foundation for more than three decades, believes that knowledge, change and genuinely caring for people will be the key factors in creating a new future for Christian Retail.
Roush too is someone who devours information. As a speed reader he reads hundreds of books, articles and studies each month. Constantly challenged to help others find solutions to complex and often overwhelming problems. Thinking so far past the scope of difficulty, that he’s earned a reputation in business circles as the consummate problem solver. Roush received a Lifetime Achievement Award from ‘I Change Nations’ a few years ago for his International humanitarian work, and was recently honored by the National Council for Civility for his ongoing work as a catalyst for change.
“The story of Christian Retail will be one of overcoming past challenges, doing things different and better and showing the world the extraordinary influence of Gods people,” said Roush.
Dr Clyde Rivers has referred to Roush as a ‘Champion for Change.’
Historically every revolution, has happened when the status quo is no longer acceptable and leaders have stepped forward with the knowledge and skill to create necessary and significant change.
Sometimes the leaders of change are who we expect and sometimes it’s the song writer or the humanitarian.
“Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” Alan Turing.