Champion is also a verb

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When my family and I were on a (rare!) spring break trip to Nashville we took a walking tour with a musician friend of my husband: Walkin’ Nashville Music City Legends Tour, with Bill DeMain. It’s a great tour, even if (like me) you don’t love country music, there’s great storytelling about some real characters.

Two of my favorite stories were about champions.

Yes, Bill talked about award-winners, like Chet Atkins and Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline, people who have been or still are on top of the country echelon. But for me, the best stories were about people who championed others.

Tootsie, of Tootsie’s Wild Orchid Lounge, loved her young songwriters so much that she built a room for them in the back of the bar and made demo records of their songs and stocked them in her jukebox — young guys like Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson. When Patsy Cline’s husband heard a demo of “Crazy” on the jukebox one night, he asked about the songwriter; Tootsie went in the back and brought out Willie. The connection was made, as was a hit record.

Skull Schulman, of The Rainbow Room, a music venue and burlesque club, loved to wear Hee-Haw merchandise, like overalls with the laughing donkey all over them, accessorized with a belt with a dinner-plate-sized belt buckle. He was known for giving young folks their first chance in Nashville — they’d play with the house band, who’d stay on the stage when the song set was done so they could accompany the stripper. Skull was also known for slipping some money to kids he believed in, something that may have kept Tim McGraw in town when he was close to giving up.

It got me thinking: very, very few of us will be world-famous for what we do, but it’s not hard to champion others.

We don’t even need to own a music club. If we know someone who makes art, we can buy some or go to a show, and talk about it. We can support the passions of our friends by giving money to their organizations or volunteering for their events (or both!). We can read our friends’ books (either purchased or borrowed from the library) and leave a review or just talk about it. It’s that simple. And that fun.

Now, I’m not saying that one day a tour guide will tell stories about you, but you never know…

Here are some things I’m championing lately:

  • DisArts Festival: going on right now in downtown Grand Rapids, events and exhibits every day until Saturday, April 25, with special family activities on Saturdays. Let’s use our imaginations to bust through stereotypes of people with disabilities while celebrating their creativity. I can’t wait to get downtown.
  • Writer Unboxed: They’re a popular writing group blog, so they don’t exactly need any championing, but I’ve been making an effort to read books by the people I met there. So far I’ve read Poole’s Paradise and Lucy in the Sky by John Vorhaus (who taught me how to play poker), The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles by Ray Rhamey, Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff (which is that rarest of rare birds, a novel both I and my 13-year-old daughter loved), and a project by Lancelot Schaubert and his friends. And I’ve only just begun.
  • I.H. Laking: He’s a young writer from New Zealand whose Twitter presence I really enjoy — charming, positive without being smarmy, funny without being rude. He’s also a writer of steampunkish detective stories. I downloaded two of his stories for free and then paid for the third. They are charming. A fun way to spend an hour or so.
  • airbnb: Our place in Nashville was one of the coolest houses ever, in a neighborhood with great food, and a host who steered us right. It’s great to have spaces each family member (particularly the teenagers) can retreat to at times, which is almost impossible to do in a hotel room. And I’m no longer stuck having to twiddle my thumbs when I wake up 2-3 hours before everyone else. Seriously, I may almost never stay in a hotel again.

How about you? What are you championing these days?

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