Monday, March 01, 2010

A Tribute to a Great Man

I had an opportunity last week to attend a "celebration service" for a great man.

Most of you have never heard of George Merritt, although he was a star of a major Broadway hit several years ago. He had a beautiful baritone voice, and I think he once told me that he had been in four Broadway productions during his career. But, George was not great because of his voice or his career. He was great because of who he was.

He was an African-American who grew up at a time when it wasn't cool to be black. He was taken in by a white foster family who saw first hand what it was like to be discriminated against simply because of the color of your skin. But, George never held any grudges. He loved his Lord, and was grateful for the life he had been given. He was a true gentleman - always gracious and encouraging with his comments to others.

The service last week included songs by some phenomenally talented singers and musicians. I was really impressed. But, it was the testimonies about George from his wife, his grandchildren, his foster siblings and friends that spoke volumes about who George really was.

Those who knew him best clearly thought that George Merritt was a great man!

As I listened,I was reminded of another memorial service I was able to attend a few years ago for someone who was a household name in this country. He had won all the top awards in his field. The service incorporated performances by internationally known musicians, and included testimonials from some extremely influential people. But, all they talked about was how great this man was in his field. He had been married several times. None of his wives made a comment. His children spoke, but it was clear they really didn't know their father very well.

Those who did NOT know this person very well thought he was a great man.

For me, the contrast was striking. Both services were held at venues in New York. Both had wonderful music. Both had testimonials about the person who had died. But, George Merritt was respected as a great man by those who knew him best. That is a real sign of greatness. I hope the same will be true for you . . . and for me.

1 comment:

George W. Sarris said...

I'll try not to cast stones, but the contrast was very striking.