Use Me For Good

Surprises await everywhere, every day. We simply have to watch. Not sure you agree? Read on.

My brother invited me to attend Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic music festival in Austin. Despite my extreme misgivings about spending an entire day in 100˚ heat, I accepted. Seeing Willie was a bucket list item, and time was running out on that one.

Q2 Stadium – 2022 Willie Nelson 4th of July Picnic

We arrived around 3:30 pm, armed with water bottles, sunblock, and my Mexican wide-brimmed straw hat, but were delighted to discover our seats were already in the shade at the Q2 Stadium. One major blessing!

I’ve never been a huge country music fan, so I knew none of the acts for the day except Willie. Nevertheless, I settled in to enjoy the day. I’m a people watcher, and believe me, there was plenty to watch. Took about five minutes for me to decide a local drill team must’ve gone out of business and held a fire sale on their knee-high white cowboy boots. ’Cause, friend, approximately one in ten of the young women in attendance wore a pair. The only thing missing was the fringe down the sides.

Don’t get me wrong—they were cute, paired with airy short dresses that I’d have been happy to wear if I didn’t want to subject the surrounding people to the sight of my crepey, post-50-something skin all afternoon. There were just a lot of them. The overabundance detracted from the cute impact after a while.

I went to the concourse to get some food. While walking around, I came upon a distressing scene. A man, probably in his 60s, lay on the ground. A younger man stood near his feet, weight shifting from side to side, his hands clasped on top of his head as he watched, concern flooding his face.

The stadium medical team tended to the older man, quickly pulling open his shirt, running for an AED machine, inserting an IV to administer fluids. The man’s skin was gray, and after three convulsive paroxysms of his chest and stomach, he stilled. One medic began CPR.

A man behind me prayed softly. I backed up to stand next to him and gripped his hand. The fact there were now two of us seemed to imbue him with the confidence to speak loudly, strongly, claiming the promise that where two or more are gathered, God is there with them. Our fingers clung tightly, and I fought the tears pooling in my eyes.

I never heard the medics yell “Clear!” nor did the man’s body jerk as if they shocked his heart. They loaded him onto an ambulance stretcher and wheeled him away. As far as I could tell, he never moved again. All I could think was how excited he must’ve been to see Willie Nelson later that night. Dying on the concrete floor of a stadium most likely hadn’t been on his bingo card for the day.

People passed by with hardly a glance at the frenzied activity taking place at their feet. Were they more considerate than I to not stand and watch? Or did they not care? Daniel, the 6’ 4” Hispanic man who prayed so ferociously, gave me a tearful hug and left.

Music from Tyler Childers pounded on the other side of the bleachers. Life continued. Within moments, the medical team had all the plastic wrappings from the AED machine cleared and thrown away. It was as if nothing happened. Stunned, I returned to my seat.

Moments later, cameras projecting on large video screens on either side of the stage showed a young man kneeling in front of his girl, holding a small box up to her. She clapped her hands across her mouth, then nodded. He stood and embraced her, and the entire stadium cheered. The seesaw of emotions left me a bit whiplashed.

Later, a young woman moved to the back of the floor area where there were no chairs and danced to the music, alone. A young man in cowboy boots and a straw hat apparently took it upon himself to rescue her from her solitary celebration and raced across the open zone, skidding to a halt in front of her, boots sliding on the protective flooring laid on the soccer field. He placed the two beers he carried on the ground, then leaped to take her in his arms. She happily complied with his twirls and spins, following his lead as they danced together to the sounds of guitars and a harmonica. When the song ended, he gave her a short bow, collected his beers, and returned to his seat. Duty done, problem solved. Made me smile.

Jason Isbell took the stage. I knew none of his songs, and the overly loud, distorted projection from the enormous speakers made it difficult to understand all the lyrics. However, I could clearly hear the chorus in one song.

“Cover me up and know you’re enough to use me for good.”

Unable to discern what the song was truly about, I felt like those words were a prayer. Use me for good. Daniel prayed for the unknown man on the floor. The young man pledged his love to his girlfriend. The rescuing cowboy wanted to create a sweet moment for the solitary dancer. And all those white boots made girls across the stadium feel pretty.

Willie came on at 9:00 and sang for an hour. He was winded and stayed seated in a chair. But he is an 89-year-old country music icon. I’m glad I got to hear him perform.

photo by Scott Moore

Before the night was over, I’d held the hand of a stranger, laughed and sang with others. Never seen any of them before. Will undoubtedly not see them again. But I always want to be used for good. Took my lessons from a stadium full of cowboys, cowgirls, and country music singers. There is always an opportunity if we just look for it.

And, if you’re not a Willie Nelson fan, listen to this song, performed with his son, Lukas. And, sir, who may have died on the floor at a concert on Independence Day, let these words sing you to heaven.

“Just Breathe,” written by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam in 2009

12 Replies to “Use Me For Good”

  1. Wow, Paula! I’m so sorry about the gentleman. That had to have been tough, I’m sure you and the other passerby were a comfort to all who attended him during that time.

    On a brighter note, so happy you got to see a Texas icon perform, see a love story in action, and all the pageantry Texas has to offer. It’s like those folks were ready to wear their homecoming mums at the big ball game.

    So tickled to read that your bucket list now has a check beside this incredible event. May your Sharpie and list be ever ready for more adventures! Blessings!

  2. Beautifully written, Paula. I went to Willie’s 1st 4th of July Picnic, something like 45 years ago. It was a wonderful experience, but we didn’t have a stadium to sit in the shade under!

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