A Contribution, Unknown, But Immense
He was “discovered” in the ’60s playing in a Detroit bar called The Sewer and soon made two records that won praise for phenomenal lyrics, but never sold.
Discouraged, he quit performing and went to work at a brutally demanding job as a demolition guy on construction sites.
Little did he know that one of his records made its way to South Africa, where he became a music Superstar with hits that became anthems for the anti-Apartheid movement.
His legendary status even included myths about his death.
But he was alive.
When his fans finally found him and invited him to South Africa he walked out on stage for the first time in decades and performed, using a backup band he’d never met, but who knew his music by heart because they’d played his songs many times, as devoted fans do.
But before he could begin, he stood on stage as the crowd roared deafeningly, almost ceaselessly, paying him a tribute that they’d never had the opportunity to pay before. The sound of it was overwhelming.
It was the sound of appreciation for the contribution he’d made—one of immeasurable proportion—to a struggle that ended, if not perfectly, many injustices.
He made this enormous contribution without knowing it.
When I heard this interview on the radio (I wish you could hear it), not only was I moved by the enormity of what he’d given, but also by the striking contrast to his humility.
It made me think of a visitation I went to many years ago. A family friend had passed. Those who knew her were dropping by to pay respects to her family and to her memory. She had served as a grade school teacher, at the same school, for nearly 40 years.
Only, you couldn’t just drop by. You couldn’t get near the building. You had to park blocks away and hike in.
When we finally neared the building we could see a line of people that snaked outside and wound around the building, people who’d been waiting for hours.
Hundreds of people, students now grown, parents of students, students whose children were now students, generations of people were all there to honor the contribution that a school teacher had made by simply caring for kids and offering them a real chance to improve themselves.
I’d never seen anything like it before. And never since.
Unlike Rodriguez on stage that day, she wasn’t there to receive her tribute.
I think that’s the way it is for most. Your contribution will likely go unknown to you.
When you blog, when you post, offer something. Give something of value to those who find you and follow. Give content, give a link, offer something of value. Make a contribution.
Sure you can tally up the Likes, and count the click-throughs. If they don’t spin up a swift pace, you’re likely to believe you’re sending messages in a bottle that “no one” reads.
But if you really give something to those who give you their attention, I doubt you’ll ever know the real impact of your contribution. Keep giving.
And they will come back for more.