A few years ago, I put a “What Would Dolly Do?” sticker on my water bottle that I take everywhere with me. It’s got a picture of Dolly Parton from the 1970s with hair as high as the sky and a beautiful smile to draw you in. Even though I’ve got 10 other stickers on this same bottle, people always ask me about the Dolly sticker. Dolly, huh? Tell me more about that.
I’m not sure why this sticker prompts the most questions. Perhaps when they look at me, I don’t seem like a Dolly fan or perhaps an older country music fan. Or maybe it’s the question that draws them in. They’ve heard the phrase “what would Jesus do” many times, but what would Dolly do is a new question for them to ponder.
For strangers, I just respond that I’m a huge fan and leave it at that. For those I know better or have some extra time in conversation, I go a little deeper. Here are some things that inspire and fascinate me about Dolly Parton:
She dreams big. Growing up poor in rural Appalachia, she knew she always wanted to pursue music and be a star. She didn’t know how she would get there or what that path would look like, but she never took her eye off the big dream even when people in her life doubted or tried to derail her. I feel like I dream so small. I’m in awe of those who go big.
She’s a master storyteller. While most people are drawn to her voice, I love how she weaves an incredible story with her song writing. She takes you on a journey with her words and then builds on that with the music and her voice. She’s also confident she has something important to say to the world while I still doubt myself on a daily basis with my writing.
She gives back. While many people build success and wealth, some like to build a fence around it and keep it all for themselves. Not Dolly. She tackles issues she is passionate about with generous giving, including the Imagination Library, where free books are mailed to kids birth to age five all around the world. They’ve given away millions of books over the years.
Lastly, and the main reason I have this sticker on my water bottle, is about forgiveness. She knows how to forgive and heal hurt in her relationships. Dolly’s career was launched on The Porter Wagoner Show and, while they had a successful working relationship that made her famous, it was also a tumultuous one. When she left to begin a solo career, he was bitter about it and then went on to sue her for one million dollars. Years later, when he fell on hard times and lost the rights to the songs he had written, Dolly bought them all and gifted it back to him and his family so they could benefit from the ongoing royalties on those songs.
This is why I love her. This is why I think about forgiveness when I look at that sticker. When faced with someone who had done her wrong and wanted to keep her from living out her dream, she didn’t turn bitter or seek revenge. She forgave him, but not just through her words. Her actions show a forgiving heart, one who is willing to love big and give back to someone who has not always been kind or loved them. Their wrong actions don’t dictate her right ones.
I want more of that in my life! The ability to let go of injustices, wronged relationships, and bitter words, but then to take it one step further and love them back in big ways.
It’s not easy. But as Dolly always says, “It’s hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world.” We must keep authentically shining and forgiving. That’s what Dolly would do.