Listening Through Lent: Softly and Tenderly

An accident occurred to the engine of a train running through the mountains of Tennessee and the passengers were delayed at a little village hotel, while the damage was being repaired. A lady and a gentleman among the passengers were shown into the little dismal parlor, in one corner of which stood an old-fashioned piano badly out of tune. The only other occupant of the room was an old lady, who was evidently a boarder there. Outside it was dark and rainy, but this did not seem to interfere with the comfort of a group of loafers who smoked under the parlor window. To pass away the time the young lady sat down to the piano, and after playing a waltz or two, struck into “Old Hundred.” At this the old lady came over to the piano and spoke.

“I was thinking, my dear” she said hesitatingly, “that if you could sing a little mite, just some old hymn or something it would seem real good. Who knows but it would help them poor boys out there? They’re most likely away from their homes and their mothers, and it ain’t probable they hear much good music–The Lord’s music, you know.”

After some hesitation the young lady consented, and together they sang hymn after hymn, the old lady listening with evident delight. Outside the men laid down their pipes and all conversation stopped that they might the better hear. By and by the young lady sang alone:

“Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me!
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.
Come home! Come home! Ye who are weary
Come home!
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O Sinner, come home!”

As the last sweet strain died away one young man on the outside, with a face better than that of most of those about him, stealthily brushed away a tear. Just then the message came that the train was ready and the singers went on their way. Several years later this same gentleman stood in a little group of men who were listening to the words of an evangelist and gospel singer, who had just been singing to an audience the words of this very song. When he finished he turned to the group and said, “I remember well the first time I heard that hymn. It was in a little hotel in the mountains of Tennessee, where I had been squandering my substance, a real Prodigal Son. There came one afternoon a little company of people who were delayed by an accident to the train, and one or two of them began singing around the piano. The lady’s voice I shall never forget. She sang one of my mother’s old hymns and then this one ‘Come home.’ Whereever I went the next few days, I seemed to hear that voice saying, ‘Come home’– and the end of it was I came.”

“Not the end, sir,” said the astonished gentleman. And then he told him his part of the story and how the white haired old lady had prompted the singing, and her thought that it might do some of the boys on the outside good.
~Harry Rodenberger and Retha Rodenberger McAfee

Resource: Stories of The Great Hymns of The Church – Silas H. Paine


Will L. Thompson

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.

Come home,.. come home,….. Ye who are weary, come home;…
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, Calling, O sinner, come home!

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,
Pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not His mercies,
Mercies for you and for me?


Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,
Passing from you and from me;
Shadows are gathering, death-beds are coming,
Coming for you and for me.


 Oh! for the wonderful love He has promised,
Promised for you and for me;
Tho’ we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon,
Pardon for you and for me.