The Greenwood Cultural Center had a fundraising brunch as part of the commemoration of the Tulsa Race Massacre. A friend of mine (Darice) and I went to Tulsa, and reserved two spots at the brunch. I thought the highlight would be hearing Alfre Woodard speak. She did make a lovely and moving (prepared) speech, but Garth Brooks stole my heart.
Let me preface the rest of this post with this: I
am not was not a real fan of his. There is a popular Garth Brooks bar song that I sang--one time--along with a large group of people (surprise--in a bar), but I’m more into Trisha Yearwood. So, when I heard about this brunch, I squealed about other stars who would be in attendance… but I figured I would take a bathroom break when the country star had his turn to talk.
I came prepared with a book (of mine) to give to Alfre Woodard, and one for Wes Studi (a Native American actor) but Brooks was not book-worthy. Or so I thought. My friend loves Garth Brooks--the storyteller--and said she appreciated how “down home” he is. Mentally, I rolled my eyes. Darice loves most people. She was wrong. I was right in my assessment. After all, I’m always right.
I was so wrong (which is almost always the case). Garth Brooks (a Tulsa boy) didn’t have even a post-it in front of him, but his off-the-cuff speech was funny, emotional and inspiring. He told a wonderful story about his dad (and I’m paraphrasing it here):
“At one of my concerts my dad was backstage with me. One of the concert hall guys came and told me, ‘Ninety minutes ago, there were 850,000 people.’ I thought he meant that now there were that many people in the audience. But the man said, ‘No, I mean an hour and half ago there were that many people waiting for you to start the concert. Now there’s even more.’
So I said to my dad, ‘Did you hear that, Dad? 850,000 people here early to see me, to see my concert.’ I thought he’d be impressed. But my dad was a tough guy. Instead of being impressed, he said, ‘That just means there’s 850,000 people you can disappoint… so go out there and make sure you show them a good time.’”
After hearing his humble and touching talk, I inscribed one of my books to Garth and waited in line to have my picture taken with him. This is why he made me a forever fan:
1. He tipped his hat to every woman who came up to talk to him. Every single one without fail. It was a small gesture, not showy, but was obviously just part of who he was.
2. With each person, he connected with them. He looked them right in the eye and truly listened.
3. He was there--posing for pictures--long after everyone else had left.
4. When I handed him a copy of my book, he actually looked at the cover, commented on my name (“You spell your name like this?”), and held the book with the front cover facing the camera.`
As a writer, I learned several things. One, don’t be surprised when your first impressions turn around and bite you in the butt. Two, always go the extra mile. If I ever am lucky enough to do a book event and someone wants to ask me a question or talk to me after the event’s over, I will remember what a gracious and generous man Garth Brooks was.
And finally: in my opinion, down-home and humble and off-the-cuff always wins over eloquent and polished...
Sioux Roslawski is now a Garth Brooks fan, along with being a newly-published author. Her book, Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story, is available at Barnes and Noble, along with Amazon.