Many of you saw in the news or spreading through social media this past week the touching story of 96-year-old Fred Stobaugh and the song lyrics he wrote for a contest in memory of Lorraine, his recently deceased wife of 72 years. The inspiring story came as a result of a song contest held by Green Shoe Studio where they invited anyone to submit a video of an original song. Fred didn’t do a video, but he put the lyrics in a manila envelope and sent them off to the studio, not expecting to hear back.
The studio was so touched by the story that they decided to have his song professionally produced as a gift for Fred. Fast forward to this week and the video of that story has received millions of views while the song “Oh Sweet Lorraine” was in the top ten downloads for the past week on iTunes. If you haven’t seen the video yet, take nine minutes and watch it here, then continue reading. I promise it is worth your time.
Who could watch that video and not be touched by it? We walk away from it perhaps with a tear in our eye, but surely with a longing in our heart for more such stories. We long to be on the receiving and giving end of such experiences. Just as Fred was taken aback by the gift of the song, so were the people of the studio moved by Fred and their opportunity to show him kindness. We long to have a love story like Fred and Lorraine. We acknowledge the rarity of 70+ year marriages and feel blessed to witness them, encouraged that maybe the same is possible for us.
Why is it that such a story goes viral? When the national news headlines are more frequently stories of war and potential war, stories of violence and wrongdoing, why does a story like Fred’s get millions of views and make the top ten downloads on iTunes? I believe it is because we are tired of news about war and murder and all that is wrong with mankind. We grow weary of filing our minds and ears and eyes with yet more stories daily that discourage and depress.
Rather, we long for feel-good stories that give us at least a brief respite from the evil in the world. We need reasons for hope. We cling to stories like Fred’s because there are holes in our heart and our experiences in life that shout for something more meaningful, more purposeful, more worthwhile and eternal. We long to fill our minds with that which is healthy. We know that we need to realistically understand our world and its troubles; we just don’t want to dwell constantly on all that is wrong around us, nor should we. We need models of what is right and good, and we need to lift those stories high for all to see and hear. We need more than the constant reminders of what harms us.
It was a bit ironic that much of the other music-related news of this past week was around Miley Cyrus and her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. Commenting on the contrast between Miley and the touching story of Fred Stobaugh, former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee had this to say:
“Miley Cyrus took a lot of flak this week for her raunchy performance at the MTV Video Awards. But she was hardly alone. Most of the performers stripped down, cursed and gyrated in crude ways. They think that’s what it takes to sell a song. But they’re wrong… This week, among all the sex-drenched tunes by Lady Gaga and Robin Thicke, you’ll find “[Oh] Sweet Lorraine,” 96-year-old Fred Stobaugh’s song of undying love for his late wife, perched at #9 on iTunes’ top 10 chart. I hope it makes it to number one, as a reminder that all a song really needs to be popular is for it to touch our hearts.”
Nearly a year ago, a similar feel-good story and video made the rounds of singer Katy Perry performing a duet with Jodi DiPiazza, a young girl with autism. That YouTube video now has over 7 million views. You can watch it below:
Our hunger for such stories won’t end, because the longing in our heart to be fully human demands them. I wonder what the collective attitude and mindset of society would be if we spent more time highlighting what is good and right with the world rather than dwelling on all that is wrong?
By the way, if you’d like to send a note of encouragement and thanks to Fred Stobaugh, here is his address:
P.O. Box 4063
Bartonville, IL 61607
My challenge to you this week is to share some positive, uplifting stories with others. What positive stories can you share?