organ music

There are several variations of the story, but this is my favorite. So even if you’re familiar with the theme, please read all the way through.

The music director of the local church had a discipline of choosing one hymn to be sung at every service during a given month. So while the other hymns varied weekly, the “pick of the month” remained constant.

A young girl, not old enough to read, sat with her parents in the front pew each week. She became the center of attention when the new monthly selection switched to the much-beloved old hymn “Gladly the Cross I’d Bear.” While she didn’t know any of the words to the verses, when it came to the refrain, she sang out loudly and with a beatific smile: “Gladly the cross I’d bear, Gladly the cross I’d bear, ‘Til He’s known everywhere, Gladly the cross I’d bear.”

As the month went on, the congregation eagerly anticipated that hymn and the child’s response. Her parents wondered if perhaps this was a sign the child was destined for important work in the ministry. The church leadership put forth a motion to make that hymn a permanent part of the service; such was the effect the child’s singing generated.

The local newspaper decided to do a story on her. When the reporter asked about her response to the song, the child looked puzzled as if everyone already knew. “I just love singing about that big old cross-eyed bear named Gladly.”

Cute story, huh?

Full disclosure:  I made it up. Myself. This morning.

Fact Check ❶ There is no hymn, beloved or not, titled Gladly the Cross I’d Bear.

Fact Check ❷ There is no hymn with that refrain. Yep, I made up that too.

Fact Check ❸ There is no hymn containing even that particular phrase.

Fanny Crosby’s hymn “Keep Thou My Way” contains a verse that says, “Kept by Thy tender care, gladly the cross I’ll bear.” So there is no joke unless we change the original lyrics from “I’ll bear” to “I’d bear.”

Yes, there ARE variations of Gladly the Bear floating out there on the web, so that part is true. I’m not a total liar. Search for gladly the cross and you’ll find them. The phrase even gets a brief mention as an example in Ann Handley’s awesome bestseller Everybody Writes.

Gladly’s story has been shared so often that it’s become accepted as the truth.

So class, let’s review what we learned today:

  • Norma is pretty good at spinning a tale.
  • Don’t believe everything you read or hear.
  • It’s good to laugh every day. Never at someone else’s expense, mind you, but I think it’s especially refreshing to have a laugh at your own expense.

And that’s what I did today. Because the REAL punchline of this post is that until I started fact-checking, I myself didn’t realize the legend was based on “someone” subbing one word for another to make the joke work in the first place.  Would the guilty party please stand up?

To my readers: Do you have a funny story to share about misinterpreting words?