One of my favorite songs of all time is “What a wonderful world”, by Louis Armstrong. I don’t remember where I was the first time I heard it but I do remember that song being one of the first ones (when I was a child) that actually moved me. I thought it was the most beautiful song ever written, below is a verse from it.

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky, there
also on the faces of people walking by, I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do, they’re really saying, I love you.”

How can a song with those lyrics not make you feel good about yourself and everything around you? I didn’t understand what the song really
meant until I found out who Louis Armstrong was. Louis Armstrong was an African
American musician that started getting notoriety in the 1920’s. Back then the
country was severely divided racially. Louis was a trumpet player/singer and
became the first African American musician to “cross over” into mainstream white America. His music allowed him to go to restaurants and hotels that other African Americans couldn’t go to at the time.

This obviously had to be very conflicting for him. This was a time
when African Americans couldn’t eat in the same restaurants as white people or
use the same water fountain. The schools were segregated (especially in the
south) and the Ku Klux Klan would hang African American people from trees. The
same people that would turn their back on other African Americans that wanted
to come into their place of business would open their doors for Louis Armstrong.

African American people would use (and still use) the term
“uncle tom” to describe an African American that would do
anything to be in good standing with the white man.
It was meant as a derogatory
term and was basically someone that “sold out” their own race. Louis
Armstrong wasn’t outspoken in the treatment of African American people at the
time publicly so he was seen as an “uncle tom” by a lot of his own
people. Even though Louis was allowed by white America to go certain places didn’t
mean he was accepted by them, and on top of that a lot of people of his own
race didn’t except him either. So what was so wonderful about the world he was
singing about?? I didn’t get it until I got older and learned more about Louis
Armstrong the man.

Earlier this week for whatever reason the song “What a
Wonderful World” was stuck in my head. I watched the video on you tube and
really listened to it for the first time. It’s funny the difference between hearing
and listening. You hear thousands of things each day. Birds, cars, conversations, TV. shows, etc so much it becomes just background noise to us, but what do you really listen to? I decided to listen to what Louis Armstrong was saying and it moved me more than the first time I heard the song as a child.

Louis Armstrong knew what was going on in the world. He wasn’t
blind the difference was he chose to not focus on all the negative things going
on and instead focus on all the beautiful things around him. How different
would that song of been if he sang about the civil rights movement, or famine
across the world, or the next world war everyone is waiting for. What he sang
about was so simple, but things that we take for granted every day.

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

Do we not see this every day? When you wake up in the morning do
you actually appreciate the little things? Turn on the news or read a newspaper
and you’ll be miserable every day. The only thing you’ll see and hear are the
things that make this world so bad. Murders, crime, racism, ignorance etc but
what about the bird that chirps outside of your window when you wake up? Or
being able to wake up at all?

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

Louis appreciated the little things. Being able to see how beautiful the sky is or the sun when it sets. Those were the things that made the world wonderful to him. I remember going to the shore last summer with my wife and looking at the ocean. I’m not a beach person by any means so I never really paid attention to what I was looking at. I’ve always been like “Wow water cool, where’s the gym”. This summer though I actually appreciated
what I was looking at. I found myself looking up a lot more often as I read my
book just to look at the ocean. Something simple that has always been there for
me to enjoy and here I was just starting to appreciate it.

As the song goes on he talks about people on the street greeting each other and saying hello. This in my mind means a peaceful world where we’re not trying to kill each other. Despite all the pain that he was going through on a day to day basis he still had hope and a vision for a better world. He was escaping his harsh reality by imagining a much better one.

hear babies cryin’, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world

His last verse was his hope for the future. That the next generation
will come up better than his. Maybe he wouldn’t see the world he was singing
about in his lifetime but one day it will come. It’s so much different when you
listen to what someone’s saying and not just hear it. You appreciate their
words that much more.

I listened to “What a Wonderful World” for the first time this week and now I know what the song actually means. Focus on all thebeautiful things this world has to offer and it will be wonderful to you also.