Imagine

“Everyone wants to be treated like gold—even if they’re only silver.”—Unknown

An inspirational radio show that had me crying in a traffic jam on the 405.

It was seven o’clock on a slightly drizzly, busy Saturday night and the 405 freeway was jammed with cars. Unlike what you may see in the movies, there were no horns honking, no raised fists, or yelled epithets. Los Angeles drivers know there’s bunched up traffic on Saturday night and know that fretting about it won’t get them where they’re going any faster.  So everyone waited patiently in their metal cubicles as they snaked along to their various destinations.

I was on my way from a holiday party in Palos Verdes to a family dinner in Chatsworth.  I knew it would be a two-hour journey between parties, but was willing to pay that price to attend both.  Tired of music stations, I searched the talk show formats.   Political rants?  No, thanks.  News?  Nope.  Then I heard the familiar voice of Garrison Keillor, with his radio show, A Prairie Home Companion.  Music, light banter, jokes, stories…ah, perfect!

Garrison started talking about John Lennon and his legacy of music.  He wondered what people of the future 200 years from now would think of his memorial plaque in New York City that said “Strawberry Fields”—would they remember John and his music? Or would they think that someone grew strawberries there?

After light chuckles from the audience at that, Garrison announced a sing-along of John’s song, Imagine.  You could hear the rustle of papers as an assistant passed out the music and words to everyone.   The song started, and the first man started to sing in a beautiful baritone, the first lines:

“Imagine there’s no heaven,

It’s easy if you try,

No hell below us,

Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people

Living for today…”

As he completed his turn, the audience burst into applause, with hoots and whistles of appreciation.

The next man sang with vigor and in perfect pitch,

“Imagine there’s no countries,

It isn’t hard to do,

Nothing to kill or die for,

No religion too,

Imagine all the people

Living life in peace…”

Again the audience cheered, hoots, whistles, feet stomping.

Then a young girl sang tentatively, slightly out of tune and very fast, running four lines together in the space of one:

“Imagine-no-possessions-I-wonder-if-you-can-No-need-for-greed-or-hunger-A-brotherhood-of-man…”

She stopped hesitantly.

“Great!” Garrison beamed, and still again the audience cheered and applauded wildly, with no loss of enthusiasm and no fewer whistles.

The final verse was sung by a woman who was on-key perhaps somewhere in the 8th dimension, but not in this one:

“You may say I’m a dreamer,

But I’m not the only one,

I hope some day you’ll join us,

And the world will live as one.”

Hoots, hollers, whistles, cheers, giddy applause.   It was a sisterbrotherhood of man in that room, where everyone’s contribution was acknowledged and appreciated, regardless of talent or tune or ability or sex or race or age or creed.  Their world was one.  And I was one with them, too, as I listened.  I wept at the beauty of the words of this song and the beauty of the singing of it with such raw passion and reverence.

Thank you, Garrison—and you, too, John Lennon, wherever you are—for this glowing memory of a rainy Saturday night stuck in traffic on the 405 with my brothers and sisters.