Charlotte's Web Thoughts
Charlotte's Web Thoughts
What the World Needs Right Now

What the World Needs Right Now

The greatest Monday morning ever.
(image credit: Kris Connor // Getty)

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It was August 17th, 2015—a typical, late summer, hot Monday morning—when I heard booming music outside the bedroom window of my apartment. It sounded like it was coming from RFK Stadium, which was just up the street on the east side of Washington, D.C.

I was entering the final year of undergrad and needed a break from getting my class schedule in order and filing G.I. Bill benefits and looking at grad schools, so I decided to take a walk and locate the source of the revelry.

As I got closer to RFK, I saw what appeared to be a stage and a small contingent of security officers keeping watch and no more than a hundred or so people dancing away the hot, late morning.

Because the stage was facing away from me, I couldn’t tell who was singing, but they sounded a lot like Stevie Wonder. Pitch perfect impersonation of him. Impressive, I thought, I don’t mind listening to a great cover band for a while.

I entered the area, a grassy plot of land in front of RFK, rounded the stage, and looked up to see a full band playing alongside—oh my god, that’s Stevie Wonder.

Stevie Wonder. In the flesh. Right in front of me.

Songs in the Key of Life. Innervisions. I Just Called to Say I Love You. You Are the Sunshine of My Life. Fingertips. Superstition. Uptight (Everything’s Alright). My Cherie Amour. For Once In My Life. Tell Me Something Good. The definitive musical prodigy. Three consecutive Grammys for Album of the Year, all of them earned in a span of four years, a record that will never be tied, much less broken, during a run of musical production that is without equal. An artist of such depth and genius and delightful creativity that even his most successful contemporaries, like Sir Elton John, readily concede there is no one like him and never will be again.

Dr. Stevland Hardaway Morris. Little Stevie Wonder.

And he was singing in my little neighborhood to a small audience. My jaw had become nearly detached from my face, and I dragged it forward to get closer to the stage, ignoring the heat and humidity and any and all responsibilities and worries that were on my mind.

He was doing a surprise pop-up concert, announced just two hours prior through local media, which I had completely missed. When I went back to read the press mentions, several said the first 1,000 people to show up would get free donuts. And while I do remember the donuts and partook, but there weren’t even close to a thousand folks there.

It was a regular ole Monday morning in the District of Columbia. Folks were working, and anyone who wasn’t working was getting in a final summer vacation before the new school year.

And what few people weren’t working or on summer vacation probably saw the news and didn’t believe it would be so easy to attend the show. Maybe they missed that it’s free. Maybe they thought it’d be too packed. Maybe they weren’t sure it was worth the drive or metro ride to southeast D.C. Maybe they didn’t know about the donuts. Maybe they didn’t believe it.

But he was in my neighborhood—a good, loud shout from my apartment—and I now stood with a hundred other folks, in the sweltering heat, listening to this man play his heart out for us. As word quickly spread, it would grow to several hundred by the end of his set, folks taking an early lunch and rushing over. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Near the end, he suddenly got quite serious. He said he wanted to honor someone he deeply admired. He went on and on about this unnamed person. He talked about their humanity and grace and empathy. He talked about their leadership, and how they embodied the love that he felt the world needs right now.

As he continued talking up this apparent saint, I heard murmuring of guesses all around me. We were all waiting for the reveal. Who is this?

And then he said: “…so, I would like to honor my friend, former president Jimmy Carter.”

It was a sweet moment, but it was also mildly concerning. Did President Carter pass away that morning? Does Mr. Wonder know something we don’t? I wasn’t the only one thinking this, as I saw a few dozen folks quickly take out their phone to do the same thing I was doing: googling for any news on the 39th POTUS.

No, he was doing just fine. He wasn’t in the news. This wasn’t a response to a tragic or sorrowful development. Stevie Wonder just felt like that moment was an appropriate time to honor a man he deeply admired.

Yesterday, the Carter Center announced that the former president—by this point, at 98, the longest-living in American history—would be entering hospice care and foregoing further medical intervention in order to spend his remaining time with family.

I’ve thought about a lot of things, from the trivial to the extraordinary, since I saw the announcement. I thought about how he gave up his family’s peanut farm to run for president. I thought about how he once led the effort in saving a nuclear reactor as a young Naval officer and had radioactive urine for months afterward. I thought about his support for LGBTQ rights and the ordination of women clergy. I thought about his long association with Habitat for Humanity. I thought about when I was a little kid interested in presidential history and my grandfather, a world away from politics, beaming as he told the story of when he shook Carter’s hand many years ago. I thought about how much I regret not getting the chance to shake his hand, too.

But the first memory conjured when I heard the news was that pop-up show by Stevie Wonder and the kind words he had for President Carter, for no other reason than the sake of acknowledging his love for him and encouraging others to spread their own love, too — as he said: what the world needs right now.

Thank you, Mr. President. Rest easy.

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Charlotte's Web Thoughts
Charlotte's Web Thoughts
Charlotte Clymer is a writer and LGBTQ advocate. You've probably seen her on Twitter (@cmclymer). This is the podcast version of her blog "Charlotte's Web Thoughts", which you can subscribe to here: