One of the stories of [this] song has to do with a man so far away from its author that, under any other conditions, it is almost impossible that their lives should have had any contact.
He is the head of a national business. He is a big man in the world of finance, not only in this country but in others. Until a year ago he was just a splendid thinking machine. People were afraid of him. His employers, even men high in his confidence, found it difficult to talk to him. Those in subordinate positions trembled when he looked their way, for he never did so unless he had found a flaw in their work.
He was the kind of man who has been described in fiction but whom you do not often see—a man of iron and steel. So far as having emotion, or an unselfish interest in humanity, he might as well have been a clever piece of high tempered mechanism. One of his business associates said once that he was so unfeeling, so impersonal, so unyielding that he seemed inhuman.
One night in his wonderful car, he happened to be driving past the Billy Sunday Tabernacle. There, by the grace of God, as he declares, one of his tires was punctured. While the chauffeur was repairing the break, he sat in his car, observing the thousands who were crowding into the building. He felt no curiosity, he said. He had, for so long, trained his mind to focus itself only on such matters as related to his own business affairs, that there were many occurrences even in his home city to which he never gave a thought.
The puncture was a bad one, and he grew a little bored. The thousands and thousands who kept pouring into the tabernacle riveted his attention, despite his struggle not to be interested. He began to wonder what the building was, and what was going on inside. Then his chauffeur reported that he would have to put on an emergency tire.
The chauffeur finished his work, and looked inside the car for his employer, but he was not there.
A boy who was standing near told him that the other had gone into the tabernacle. The chauffeur was so surprised that he nearly fainted, for he had never known his employer to attend any meeting but a Board meeting of financiers.
Among those who
hit the trail that night was the man of iron and steel. He sat down in his turn to wait for us to write down his name, his address, and his church preferences, as we always do, and to one of the workers who approached him for that purpose he gave something of his remarkable story.
Some converts seemed dazed by the experience through which they have just gone, and some are so happy that they cannot help crying, but the man of steel was simply more efficient, more composed, and more keen than usual. He had already analyzed his own change of heart, and wanted to tell about it.
I don’t suppose a man like you can realize how I could have become so cold and indifferent to everyone, and everything in the world as I have become, he said. “I began my business life when I was a very young man. All I thought about was money. I saw that many men failed to get money because they stopped for other things, and I determined that I would so train my mind that it would not recognize the existence of anything else but money. I succeeded. I taught myself to look on those around me as so many shadows out of which I could extract what I wanted.
“I have not married, and so family life did not have an opportunity to soften me. I don’t think I ever loved a person in my life, certainly not since I was a man. I have never given a thought to friendship in my life, I never read books that dealt with sentiment, I never read anything in the newspapers but the financial reports, I care nothing for music or the arts.
When I came here tonight I did not even know what was going on. I had to wait outside while my chauffeur put on a new tire, and I was bored. I listened, tonight, for the first time, to men talking about the things I have always refused to consider—God and Humanity. Then came that song, ‘Brighten the Corner,’ and in its simple melody and message I heard something that finished my decision. I’m going to begin the job of brightening the corner on business lines!
The degree and extent to which he kept his word is common talk in his home city and state. He is a man now to whom his associates go for help when they are in tight places. He has given royally to every humanitarian cause which has come to his notice. He is a power, now, in that church of which he was merely a nominal member for so many years. And in his office, among his associates and his employees, he is the friend, the adviser, the sympathetic, ever ready listener, who is all but adored by those who know him.
Rodeheaver, pp. 7–11