Times are tough, for sure. It has been difficult to see past this extreme change. But, we all know that this is temporary and it shall pass.
As we’ve worked through the past few weeks at the Museum, I wanted to check in with all of you and share a story I thought you might appreciate. It’s a story that I often think about.
Years ago, I knew this 11-year-old boy who was going through an extremely difficult time, which included the sudden passing of his grandfather and a close family friend. Soon after, his parents divorced. Emotionally, that’s a lot to handle for a young boy, but on top of that, he was experiencing schoolyard bullying and became extremely depressed. He couldn’t imagine that his life was ever going to get better and he couldn’t see past the current bad situation.
As kids often do, he retreated to his bedroom and found comfort in music, and it was Dolly Parton’s voice and words that helped him through this time. He played Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers’ Once Upon A Christmas album over and over until the grooves on the record were nearly worn out. In his grief one night, he wrote a letter to her, describing everything that had happened in his life. He gave the letter to his mom to mail, but, sadly, never heard back from Dolly. Years later, his mom confessed to him that she had never mailed the letter but instead, kept it for herself because she found it too precious and sweet to part with.
Fast forward a few years and the letter that had become a distant memory was about to find its way to Dolly herself. Because, as you may have already guessed, that boy was me and Dolly was coming to the GRAMMY Museum.
I was newly serving in my dream role as President of the GRAMMY Museum and we were fortunate enough to be able to curate an exhibit on the fashion of Dolly Parton. I reminisced about my childhood letter to my colleagues and they joked that we should make it an artifact in the exhibit. Of course, this would not actually happen, but I was looking forward to meeting Dolly for the first time.
She came to the Museum to see the exhibit prior to the official opening, and I gave her a personal tour. Along the way, she was telling me stories about her different outfits when one of my colleagues suddenly mentioned my childhood letter to her.
She turned to me and asked, “Michael, did you write me a letter?”
I wasn’t prepared for her question and blushed, admitting that I had many, many years ago.
Little did I know, my mom held onto that letter all these years and secretly sent it to my colleague. So imagine my surprise when he took it from his pocket and handed it to me, right there in front of Dolly. I couldn’t believe it. I told Dolly the history behind the letter and when I finished, she asked me to read it to her. There I was, reading a letter that I wrote at a time when I didn’t think things would ever get better, during a time that exceeded my expectations of where life would ever lead me.
Then it gets even better. The next day I attended our sister charity’s – MusiCares – Person Of The Year Gala, where Dolly was being honored. During a moment backstage, I hear from across the hall, “IT’S LETTERBOY!” I realized that was Dolly and that she was calling me over.
During that difficult time in my childhood, I just couldn’t see past the current situation and wasn’t sure that it’d get better. But, it did get better, slowly and surely. Looking back, I now realize that had I not had those trying times, I probably wouldn’t have written that letter, and I definitely wouldn’t have received a nickname from Dolly Parton!
Thank you for letting me share my story. I know we all have different stories of perseverance through struggle and this current situation is certainly a good example of that. But as I mentioned earlier, we will get through it. I also wanted to thank you for staying with us during this time. I look forward to creating new memories with you once we reopen our doors!
Until then, as I said in my last email to you, our doors may be closed, but our mission is not.