Today I’m going to share a Bill Gaither story that may be new to some of you, but it moved me tremendously when I recently watched it on the How Great Thou Art DVD. Bill tells the story to set up Ivan Parker’s rendition of “Thank You,” and it’s perhaps even more powerful than the song itself. Since it’s not featured in any publicly available clips, I’ve transcribed it in full from the DVD. This is the story of Bill’s father, George Gaither, and it’s Bill’s tribute to those faithful men and women like him who never got to “follow their dreams” or do anything glamorous or exciting with their lives. He introduces it by holding up a pin with the number “708” on it.
This was George’s ticket into the auto factory where he worked day in and day out for 30 years. As the camera pans around, you can see singer after singer nodding and welling up as name after name comes to their own minds. For my own part, I think of my grandparents on my mother’s side. Grandpa was a blue collar worker with no college diploma, but he knew his Bible, and he and my grandmother sacrificed so much to pour themselves into my mother’s life. Here now is Bill Gaither’s story of George Gaither and the “708s”:
How many of you knew my dad? Raise your hand. My dad helped handle our product until he was 90 years old, and the George Gaither stories go on and on with the kids. Somebody the other day gave me this pin. The pin is “708,” and up above it is Delco-Remy. It’s a battered pin, and some of you can see it… It was my dad’s badge that he wore every morning to get into Delco-Remy, the General Motors plant in Anderson. He worked there for 30 years, and I never heard him sing, never heard him whistle. And when he had a son who came along who liked this, and other people would ask him “What’s Bill gonna do,” he said “Well, he likes music,” the next question was always, “Well, what’s he gonna do for a living.” [laughter] Not a bad question, not a bad question. But every morning, faithfully, he’d get up and put on that badge. That was his ticket to get into General Motors, work. I don’t know how many mornings when I would see him at 4:30, 5:00, he’d go down and work at that same factory every year, for 30 years. And he had this crazy son, who loved music and loved the Lord, and wanted to express himself some way of this love that he found.
When I think about his faithfulness, and when I think about the faithfulness of some moms and dads in this room, and some people in your hometown who just showed up for work every day, because that’s what they were supposed to do, and put good stuff in you, and loved you and cared for you, we are a very blessed bunch of folks. And the gratitude just goes on and on and on. And I got a feeling, that one of these days when we get to heaven Mosie [Lister], yes I think you’re gonna have a crown, ‘cuz you wrote some great songs. Lynda [Randle], you sang some great songs. Andrae [Crouch], you wrote and sang some great songs, and a lot of you in here have done that. But I got a feeling when we get to heaven, we’re gonna be really surprised at the people who got up every morning and went to work for the cause of the gospel, paid their tithes to the local church, asked for nothing in return, ’cause they did it out of a heart of love.
…Jesus talked about this upside down kingdom. We get this all confused. We put on these nice clothes, and we look pretty good, we’ve polished up pretty good. But the real heroes in heaven are gonna be pretty surprising. Listen, this is one of my favorite songs that expresses it about as well as it can be expressed. Don’t forget, his number was “708.” So this is for all the “708s” out there, who may be discouraged. Don’t give up. Keep hanging in there. Plant your seeds.