Author’s Note: This story was prompted by my wife, Anne, with whom I shared the story I’m about to share with you. When I told her the story, she said, “Six strings. You should write about that.” And people wonder why I love her as I do.
The woman is like the tide she comes and goes.
She knows the things that I can just suppose.
(Dan Fogelberg, “Comes and Goes”)
On January 13th of this year, Craig James and Mac Bogert included me in some email correspondence having to do with the fact that Craig was changing the strings on his acoustic guitar for the first time in something like forever (or thereabouts). Several days later, I received this card in the mail from Craig.
Lest the note in the card appear too small to read here, it says this:
We get to see each other’s words, often … but not in-the-hand-of … thus this note. I’m grateful for you, and our sharings.
Here’s one of those strings with my dad’s spirit attached. No obligation to keep. Just thought it would be cool for one to pass your fingers too ….
Since it’s hard to know how to respond to a gesture that sincere and generous, to say nothing of where to start, I’ll pick this spot: No obligation to keep. Think about that. No obligation to keep. Craig is unassuming enough, humble enough, unpresumptuous enough to send me a piece of his heart and soul— an object that bears his energy and his dad’s spirit — and to want me to know I’m not obliged to keep it … as if there were any possibility at all I might part with it.
On February 1st, Craig and I had a conversation on Zoom. I expressed to him how much the string meant to me. He didn’t seem sure why it might have moved me as it did to receive the string. So, I told him it put me in mind of the scene in A Charlie Brown Christmas in which the cast is supposed to be rehearsing a scene from their Christmas play.
Frieda, complaining about Pig Pen, says, “I can’t go on, there’s too much dust. It’s taking the curl out of my naturally curly hair.”
Charlie Brown, as the director of the play says to Frieda, “Don’t think of it as dust. Think of it as maybe the soil of some great past civilization. Maybe the soil of ancient Babylon. It staggers the imagination. He may be carrying soil that was trod upon by Solomon, or even Nebuchadnezzar.”
Pig Pen replies, “Sort of makes you want to treat me with more respect, doesn’t it?”
I told Craig I couldn’t begin to imagine the history of that string or all the energy in it. That’s exactly what makes it so valuable.
Sometime after receiving my string, I learned Craig had also sent strings to Andee Scarantino and Mac. During our conversation on February 1st, I asked Craig how many people he knows. He couldn’t begin to imagine. Then I asked him if his guitar is a 12-string.
He said, “No. Six.”
I said, “That tells me out of all the people you might know in the world, I’m one of six to whom you chose to send a string. That makes it all the more valuable to me.”
Craig said, “Actually, five. I kept one.”
I grinned like an idiot.
It’s the Thought …
Many people blow off things they could have done or should have done by saying, “Well, it’s the thought that counts.” In most instances, no, it isn’t. It’s the doing that counts. But it’s equally true to say the thought often compounds the doing.
Craig could have told me he was thinking about sending me a guitar string. I could have told Craig I was thinking about calling him to tell him what a meaningfully thoughtful, deeply touching gesture sending me that guitar string was. But he sent it. And I called him. Both of those things led to our conversation on February 1st, which wouldn’t have happened otherwise. That conversation will lead to other conversations. Those conversations will lead to more discoveries and tighter bonds. Our friendship and mutual regard will grow from there.
In a figurative sense, every outbound, intentional attempt at connection can be considered a string — a card, a note, a gift (however that might be defined), a gesture of thoughtfulness. Craig enabled me to think about such strings. I encourage you to think about them, too.
Those are the strings that connect the world and hold it together.