Article contributed by Russb, Stage Write Music, Inc.

IMG_1686Joy Collins, Renee Grant Williams & Santa

It’s that time of the year again. Children all around the world are anxiously awaiting that special day, that magical morning when they get up early, race to their family’s living room and see what gifts Old St. Nick has left for them.

However, many children are not able to see their gifts.

Last week, I received a very special gift from a few of these beautiful children. I was blessed to spend the afternoon with the children at The Tennessee School for the Blind, here in Nashville, TN.

On Thursday, December 12, 2013, I had the very distinct pleasure of tagging along with an eclectic group of entertainers from the Nashville Chapter of the Screen Actors Guild / American Federation of Television and Radio Artists ( SAG AFTRA ) as they made their 27th Annual voyage around Nashville, spreading love and holiday joy through music.

Each year around this time, my wife, Country Artist Joy Collins wakes my grumpy butt up early to drive her in to Nashville. Once we get downtown, we swing by and pick up the lady who introduced Joy to this special occasion three years ago, our dear friend, Celebrity Vocal Coach Renee Grant Williams.

Normally, I drop the ladies off at the SAG AFTRA office on Music Row, where they join in with the enthusiastic crowd assembled in the parking lot and lobby. After spending a few minutes socializing over coffee and doughnuts, the entertainers are herded on to a tour bus … and ol’ Russb is free to roam around town until I get the 30 minute warning text that I need to head back and pick my girls up.

Well, not this year! My wife “suggested” that I come along, enjoy the experience and shoot some video. Never being one to miss the opportunity to pull out multiple iPhones and record what’s going on around me, I agreed that I would go if I could follow in my car instead of riding the bus. After a minute or so of explaining to my wife that I needed to recharge my cameras between stops, I piled in and followed them to our first destination, which was a local nursing home.

What an awesome experience it is to witness how music can transform an elderly face in to that of a smiling child from days gone by. It was a beautiful thing. Our next stop was at a local shelter for women and children. I watched as the residents filed into the modest auditorium, almost stoically. And, once again, I was overwhelmed by the love radiating from the SAG AFTRA performer’s hearts, and its ability to transfigure a distressed face. A wise man once told me that what comes from the heart, will reach the heart… I guess he was right.

IMG_1676Our next stop was at another homeless shelter. This group seemed a bit less into what was going on, yet they were very cordial and seemed to enjoy the music.

Once we departed the shelter, we made our way over to McNamara’s Irish Pub & Restaurant at 2740 Old Lebanon Road for a preplanned lunch. Our hosts, and dear friends of SAG AFTRA, Sean and Paula McNamara, personally welcomed our group. The McNamara’s and their entire team were both friendly and professional. As Paula was calling the shots on the floor, seeing to it that everyone felt at home, Sean entertained the SAG AFTRA group with his incredible Irish Music. Once you blend their amazing hospitality, delicious food and live entertainment, you will understand why McNamara’s is one of mine and Joy’s favorite establishments in Nashville. They deliver that “Old School” experience that you will not find in today’s chain restaurant. YOU REALLY SHOULD TRY THEM!

OK… Now to my favorite part of the entire day! Once we left McNamara’s, we drove to the last stop on our SAG AFTRA Christmas Caroling Tour, The Tennessee School for the Blind. I didn’t realize at the time that this was the “Big Show” of the day… the “ONE” that really warms your heart.

Just like the three prior stops, I pulled out my cameras and got ready to video the performers. As the students began to file in, I was astonished! To watch these visually impaired children hurry into their seats, each one over flowing with anticipation and excitement immediately choked my old, rough, and tough self up.

Here I was, at the end of one of the hardest years I have ever known, full of self-pity, anger and sadness…. witnessing multiple miracles right before my eyes! I felt a wave of gratitude for MY problems… These children were missing one of the things I take for granted EVERY DAY. I was instantly humbled and silently asked God to forgive me for my lack of gratitude for what I DO HAVE….

As the music began, it was game on. These kids knew what today was…. they hit that auditorium with the heart of an Olympic athlete. They were raising their hands to get the microphone so they could showcase their skills… and every one of them were ringing bells, singing and smiling.

In an email Friday morning, I told Mr. Randall Himes, the Executive Director of SAG  AFTRA – Nashville that in all of my 44 years on this earth, I believe that this was the closest to seeing “God in the flesh” that I have ever experienced…. God was blessing everyone in different ways that afternoon… I know He sure blessed me.

Please click here for the video of these children “Showing Up” the Pros from SAG AFTRA …. I shot it with an iPhone so it’s not the best quality…. HOWEVER… look for the miracles in it… and watch for the special kiss Santa gets at the end… 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year…  from myself, Joy, and our entire family.

AND, if you would like to contribute to “The Friends of the School” and help provide some extra support for these beautiful children’s education and lives, simply click on this —> SUPPORT THE SCHOOL

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Article contributed by Russb, Stage Write Music, Inc. Joy Collins, Renee Grant Williams & Santa It’s that time of the year again. Children all around the world are anxiously awaiting that special day, that magical morning when they get up early, race to their family’s living room...