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Rosie Thomas: She’s Real, She’s Warm and She Can’t Help it
I meet up with Rosie Thomas on an unusually cool summer day in Bushnell, Illinois, June 2007. We search for a spot far enough away from sound checks, seminars and live music for us to record a brief interview without background noise.
There is no such place. We’re at Cornerstone Festival--if there’s an open space someone’s making noise on it.
We end up on a grassy hillside near a small tent where the music is reasonably subdued. Rosie suggests we sit on the grass.
She’s wearing a white sweater over a pink dress with a muted pattern. Her look may not be Amish-plain but it is the opposite of show-biz-glitzy. Rosie’s flash is mostly inside-- where it matters--giving off a comforting warmth and putting others at ease.
I’ve only known her for sixty seconds; still, I know she’s authentic. She has more concern for me than I feel I deserve. As a complete stranger sticking a digital voice recorder in her face, I’m not sure I have any coming at all but she offers it up anyway.
Clearly, she’s a toucher, a healer--she feels the pain of others and is continually burdened with a desire to help. Music is her medium but if she were not musical she’d be ministering to people with whatever gifts she had. She can’t help it.
“I’ve always had this heart for how everyone’s doing,” Rosie says. “I know it’s a gift, I really thank God that I have that love, but it cripples me sometimes because I can’t fix anybody.”
She says her songwriting is often about the things she sees in people, their struggles: “Are they going to fall in love? Are they going to be alone? Are they going to be bold enough to find out what their purpose is?”
I mention that her song “Death Came and Got Me” (off her album "If Songs Could Be Held") is particularly moving to me and she explains that it resulted from a friend’s confession that he was struggling with severe anxiety regarding dying. To Rosie, the fear of death led naturally to the fear of not living well. That’s what the song is about, she says. “Are we really embracing life, are we really living while we’re here?”
Rosie recalls a time, several years ago, when she was trying to understand what she was supposed to do with her life. “I was going to theater school, I was doing comedy, playing music.” She was praying that God would show her what her purpose was. After a show in Seattle, a man came up to her, very emotional, and told her that her music had helped him through one of the most difficult seasons of his life. She’d never had that happen before. She says she remembers thinking, “Buddy, this is why I’m doing this.”
“To see that your life truly can (have an) impact (on) someone you don’t know at all made me realize that this is what I really wanted to do.”
Ultimately, for Rosie, her music and her life are about touching people. Even if it’s just one person. At parties you can find her off in a corner or under a tree having a one-on-one conversation with someone. “I want to know what’s going on with people, I want to build them up, I want to know them…”
Rosie Thomas does not claim to have it all together. She sees her flaws and weaknesses, knows that she is on the same journey as the rest of us. But she wants to share whatever wisdom life and God have shown her. She wants to do it with good music and good humor.
To my surprise, at the conclusion of the interview, Rosie gives me a hug. Afterward, I realize I should not have been surprised. My guess is that, if she has her way, every interview she gives ends with a hug. She can’t help it.
Rosie has several CDs out. The most recent, “These Friends of Mine,” is in stores now.
At the end of her performance that evening Rosie says to her audience, “Enjoy your lives. See your worth.”
Thanks, Rosie, for the part you play in helping us do both.