From Chicken Soup for the Country Soul

O Holy Night

A man never so beautifully shows his own strength as when he respects another’s weakness.

Douglas Jerrold

The International Country Music Fan Fair in Nashville is always a zoo-like affair with three hundred or more people waiting in line at John Berry’s booth for autographs, to take pictures, and to buy memberships and T-shirts. Fans often climb over the stanchions trying to get a picture and yelling at John to get his attention.

Last year, John and his wife, Robin, had a great idea for the theme of his booth. They felt it would be nice to have people come and visit them on their front porch, so they had the booth made as an identical replica of the porch on the Berry house. The display kind of depicts how John feels about his fans—almost like they’re family. Coming onto his front porch at the show was a very comfortable thing for people.

Fan Fair began on Tuesday with a full day of interviews followed by over four hours of autograph signing at the booth. John’s fan club party didn’t close down ’til 2:30 the next morning.

John started Wednesday with the Capitol Nashville Showcase. After that, it was back to the booth where the autograph line began in front of the picket fence leading to the porch. A separate handicapped area fed into this line. At one point, I spoke with a woman who explained that she was deaf. She told me how she listened to John’s music by laying her fingertips on the speakers in her home. Now, she just wanted to be face-to-face with John. She asked if she could touch him to really feel what she had been “hearing” through the speakers with her hands.

I was impressed by the woman who seemed like a kindly soul with a gentle spirit. In spite of her handicap, she was independent, positive and confident. Although I knew John was already exhausted, I was certain he’d want to meet this special fan. I took the woman over to John, let him know she was deaf and explained that she had a special request. John had her sit down next to his rocking chair and got very close. Everyone around kind of stepped back and things quickly got very quiet. The woman reached up and put her fingertips on John’s throat. At that point, she asked him to sing. Without hesitation, and in the middle of June, John broke into “O Holy Night.”

You could see a total transformation on the woman’s face; and then the tears began streaming out of both of them. Everyone in the surrounding booths stopped talking, walking and taking pictures. All of us just watched. It was as if everything in the room had frozen except the two of them.

At the end of the song, there was a poignant pause followed by tumultuous applause and a standing ovation for the special moment that all had shared. John reached over and gave the woman a very tender hug. All of us felt the energy pass through them. The woman didn’t say much after that. Within a moment, she found her friend and was gone.

Jean Calvert

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