A little music can make the world better

I went to bed in a really foul mood Saturday night and woke up in an even worse mood Sunday morning. I could explain why, but I really don't want to talk about it. Just suffice it to say that I had a long way to go and a short time to get there and wasn't looking forward to the prospects of the trip.

And then I ran into Dan Ragsdale, of the Lithonia Ragsdales, who was also preparing for a long trip home.

Dan Ragsdale, you must understand, is a great American and true Southern gentleman.

He sold textbooks and refereed high school football for 112 years and has now retired from both. As we stood in the parking lot and said our goodbyes, a discussion arose over the source of my discontent, and I expected Dan to commiserate with my position.

He was, however, surprisingly upbeat and gave me a small gift for my journey home, which he guaranteed would make me feel better.

I didn't believe him, but accepted the gift anyway. It was a CD of old time Southern gospel music by a group called the Joyful Messengers.

I was surprised to see Dan's own picture on the cover, along with the other members of the quartet, Hamilton McDonald of Atlanta and John Hamby and R.J. Fields of Oxford. I think Janie Wells of Lithonia was the lady who played the piano.

I was grateful for the CD, understand, but still doubted that it would make me feel any better.

In fact, I fumed and fussed and cussed and reveled in my own misery - I had my own little pity party, in fact - for about 60 miles. Finally my lovely wife, Lisa, took matters in her own hands and popped the CD into the player.

I sighed and resigned myself to listening, not that I doubted the quality of the music, understand, I just felt like resisting being uplifted.

But it was no use. The first two numbers got me humming along a little bit, but about halfway through the third - "Because He Lives," - I was singing out loud and didn't slow down through the last of the 16 songs on the disc.

Now you need to understand, I was raised on the kind of music the Joyful Messengers sing. Just about every one of their selections could be found in either the "Methodist Hymnal" or the old "Cokesbury Hymnal," both of which were standard issue at the Methodist Church in Porterdale.

I loved to sing from those old hymnals, and many of my favorite songs were on the album Dan gave me.

Remember "Just a Little Talk with Jesus"? It's on there - and I had one, too - but Jesus said he didn't have any idea why we ran a quarterback sweep on third and long, either. But then we got to "Farther Along," and I figured I would understand someday.

My very favorite song on the entire CD might be "Sweet Beulah Land," but "Precious Lord, Take my Hand" by Thomas Dorsey isn't far behind.

And "He Touched Me" and "I'll Fly Away" and, of course, "How Great thou Art" were included. I'm not sure what happened to "Amazing Grace."

The song that brought back the warmest memories, though, was "On the Jericho Road."

My mama and daddy used to sing that song, over and over and over, whenever we went for a drive in the car longer than 30 minutes. Those were "Precious Memories," which is also included, by the way.

We don't sing from a hymnal in the church I belong to now. We throw the words to our songs right up onto a big screen. And we seldom sing the old hymns.

I guess they don't appeal to the younger generation. Lord, they sure do appeal to me, though.

They remind me of a simpler time, and they remind me of the dearly departed saints that helped give me a firm foundation in the faith. Besides all that, they bring me closer to God and sometimes, like Sunday, they remind me of what is really important in life.

So we drove along, and I sang along with the Joyful Messengers and by the time we reached Valdosta, I felt better - lots better - about life in general. I told you Dan Ragsdale is a great American - and he has the wisdom of the ages under that white hair.

But I'm going to tell you something right now.

If Georgia loses to the hated enemy on the last Saturday in November, there ain't a CD ever been recorded that will help me get over that.

Darrell Huckaby is a Newton County native and the author of six books. He lives in Rockdale County where he teaches high school history. E-mail him at DHuck08@bellsouth.net.