It was a pleasant off-day for Mark Miller, the founder and lead singer of Sawyer Brown. The band wasn't touring or recording. His only obligations were his family and his farm. So when he and his wife ventured out to Farrar Furniture in Nashville, he was as relaxed as a country music star can be in his hometown.

And then it happened.

"I'm a huge fan," Dean Chance, the store manager, told him. "And I write songs. And I'd kick myself if I didn't take this opportunity to tell you I've got a song I'd really like you to hear. If you'll listen to it, I know you'll like it."

Mark Miller has been given a lot of CDs over the years. Unlike many brand names in Nashville, he doesn't just toss them out. "I moved here as a songwriter," he says, "so out of respect I listen to a verse and a chorus."

Dean Chance led the Millers out to his car. He pulled a CD out of the floorboard, presented it to Miller, and the Millers drove away.

"I have a Jeep, and the top was off, but I put the CD in," Miller recalls. "I can't hear all the words--I'm day dreaming--but I'm hearing enough. And I say to my wife, 'Is that as good as I think it is?' And I look over at her--and she was sobbing. I pulled into the Home Depot parking lot to hear it again. Now both of us are crying."

When the song ended, Lisa Miller said, "You've never been given a song this good. This is of God, you know that, don't you?"

Mark Miller did. There was only one problem: The CD was so weathered that the phone number on it was unclear. Miller didn't recall the name of the furniture store. And he was miles out of town at his farm. So he called a friend who worked at a Jeep dealership a few blocks from the store, and his friend went over and talked to the manager, and that is how, just a few hours after their first encounter, Mark Miller found himself talking to Dean Chance again.

Dean Chance was delighted--but not entirely surprised.

"When Mark walked out, I just knew," he told me. "I called my best friend and said, 'I think Sawyer Brown is going to record my song."

Why did you think that, I asked.

"Well, I had played it for Stella Parton--Dolly's sister--and she loved it. She called me up and prayed with me on the phone. And not long after that Mark came in..."


Dean Chance moved from Dunn, North Carolina to Nashville 25 years ago, because he thought he'd have a better shot at breaking into the music business. He took a job at Farrar Furniture; he's been there for all 25 years and is now the manager. In the past quarter century, he has written about 100 songs. He never sold one.

Dean and Teresa Chance have two children, a 28-year-old son and a daughter, Katie, now 7. When she was two, Katie was diagnosed with autism. "She looks normal, but her behavior makes going to new places difficult," Teresa says. "There have been a number of car trips when we'd drive for 20 hours, then have to come home. Or we'd take her to restaurants and have to leave. People give us looks, but I can't put a sign on my daughter: 'She's not badly behaved, she's autistic.'"

Eighteen months ago, those judgmental looks in restaurants inspired Dean to write the song he gave to Mark Miller, which he called "They Don't Understand." He changed his restaurant experience to a scene on a bus and he was off:

A mother riding on a city bus
kids are yelling kicking up a fuss
everybody's staring
not knowing what she's going through
somebody said don't you even care
and do you let them do that everywhere
she slowly turned around, looked up and stared.

She said, "Please forgive them
they've been up all night
their father struggled
but he finally lost his fight
he went to heaven
in the middle of the night
so please forgive my children
they don't understand."

Everybody's busy with their own situation
everybody's lost in their own little worldbottled up, hurried up, trying to make a dream come true
they don't understand
everybody's livin' like there ain't no tomorrow
maybe we should stop and take a little time
cause you never really know what your neighbor's going through
they don't understand.

A man driving on the interstate
slowing down traffic making everybody wait
everybody's staring not knowing what he's going through
somebody honked from the passing lane
yelling out the window "hey I ain't got all day"
the old man looked around and he caught his eye.

He said, "Please forgive me
you know it's been a long life
my wife has passed away
and my kids don't have the time
I've been left all alone
and it's getting hard to drive
so please forgive me, children
they don't understand."

Repeat chorus

A man hanging on a wooden cross
giving everything to save the lost
everybody's staring
not knowing what he's going through
somebody said "you don't have a prayer
if you're the king come on down from there"
the man just turned his head
looked up and stared.

He said "please forgive them
for they have not seen the light
but they'll come to know me
when I come back to life
and go to heaven
to make everything all right
so please forgive your children
they don't understand.

Repeat chorus

A mother riding on a city bus
kids are yelling kickin' up a fuss
everybody's staring
not knowing what she's going through.

When you started writing, I asked, did you know the song would get to Jesus?