Sunday, September 11, 2016

How I Got So Tall

This morning I told some of my grandchildren how I got so tall.  Although I made it up as I went along, my story had their undivided attention.  So here is my story.

I had a mama named Naia.  When I was a very young boy, she would wake me up for school.  I would always jump right out of bed with a smile on my face and say “I wish you had awakened me earlier” -because I am so excited about getting to school.”

I noticed I started to get taller.

When she served breakfast every morning, I would always eat everything on my plate and tell her the meal was perfect and I would thank her for cooking my breakfast.

I noticed I was getting taller.

As I got older, she told me to be in before the street lights came on.  I would always get home earlier than that and she never had to worry about where I was.

I kept getting taller.

I was always extremely thankful for everything my Mama did for me and told her every single day how grateful I was for all she did for me.

And I kept getting taller.

I made my bed every morning and always enjoyed doing it – even before my mama asked me to do it.  And I always kept my room very clean and never left clothes lying around.

I kept getting taller.

I was always perfectly obedient.  Whatever my mama asked me to do, it did it with a smile on my face.

And I kept getting taller.  In fact, one day I looked in the mirror and noticed I was looking at my chest.  I had outgrown my mirror.

I finally graduated from high school and went to college.  I no longer had my mama with me all the time to do things for me.  I no longer had my mama to thank every day for all she did.

All of a sudden, I noticed I had stopped getting taller.  I never grew any taller after that. 

The moral of the story is - you will only grow taller when you are living with your mama and being obedient. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Ft Myers Sesquicentennial Weekend

We did it for our mama.  And we did it for us.
The four children of Edward McCoy and Naia Gonzalez Goddard just returned from a long weekend in Fort Myers, Florida to join the festivities organized by a very talented cousin we had never met, Jason Gonzalez, and a local Ft Myers cousin by the name of Woody Hanson we have known all our lives.For posterity’s sake, the “four” of us consisted of Mac & Annis Goddard, Kikky Goddard Williams, George and Jaye Goddard and Bruce and Kathy Goddard.
We learned some things about our ancestors and we learned some things about ourselves.  We chased wonderful memories of our childhood and memories of the folks who helped form whoever in the heck we have become.   We also discovered we have incredible cousins for some crazy reason we had never met.
We have now.
In 1866, the same year that our paternal great grandfather, E.A. Goddard, founded Goddard Funeral Home in Reynolds, GA, Manuel A. Gonzalez and his four year old son, Manuel S. Gonzalez, came ashore in southwest Florida and founded Fort Myers Florida. Manuel S. Gonzalez would be our maternal great grandfather.
We figured out this weekend that the most plausible reason we had never met most of these 40 or so Gonzalez cousins was because our grandfather, Clyde Gonzalez, died in 1930 at the very young age of 38.   Although Clyde’s wife (and our grandmother Mabel Armstrong Gonzalez) never remarried, we spent several weeks every summer in our formative years visiting the Armstrong side of the family in Ft. Myers.

We obviously missed out on the Gonzalez side.

There was an exception to that.  My grandmother’s sister married one of Clyde’s brothers.  Their grandson, Woody Hanson, who you will see many times in the video linked here, is kin to us on both sides.   

Maybe even more grandeur than chasing memories and our heritage, was the fact that Naia’s children spent a long weekend together.

That means we laughed.  We laughed a lot.   And we ate.  We ate a lot.

I can tell you this.  It was one great weekend.

Somehow we all believe our mama was smiling at it all  from her heavenly resting place.

We won't be around for the Bicentennial but maybe some of my grandchildren will read this blog and watch the video one day and be inspired to show up for that.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

I Didn't Even Get Her Name

Since my wife and I are spending most weekends relaxing at the lake these days in our “old age” (and not apologizing for it), we miss many Sundays at our home church.  This past weekend we were home.  I continue to be amazed at how many people gather on Sundays at Southside Church in Warner Robins, GA.  Without knowing the number exactly, I would say it is less that 5,000 but I think way more than 3,000.
Anyway I was glad I was there Sunday.  Not only did I get to see some folks I haven’t seen lately, I heard a sermon that I was still thinking about this afternoon in a cab in Knoxville TN.
Cab rides and Uber rides are sort of normal for me.  I travel for a living and many times find myself in a car with a stranger driving me.
Today was no different.
I walked out of McGhee Tyson Airport late this afternoon and got in the first cab available.  I couldn’t help but notice the young female driving this cab was not your typical cab driver. She seemed a little nervous and I suspected a little new on the job.
Turns out she was a transplant from Hamilton, Ohio.  Since I used to go to Hamilton fairly often on business and know a funeral home there,  it was easy to strike up a conversation.  Before I knew it, I learned she had recently broken up with her long-time boyfriend, she missed her parents in Ohio, at one time she went 2 ½ years without seeing them, she has a sister in Ohio and she decided to go see them at Christmas even though she really couldn’t afford it.
I also found out her friend owns the cab we were riding in and the owner treats her really well as a part-time driver.  She gets half the fares and the owner reimburses her for gas she puts in the car.  Some days she can take in as much as $200 but other days it may be only $20.  I learned that holidays are not the best time for cab drivers and she picked the worse time three months ago to go into the cab business. Many people travel during the holidays but their families or loved ones pick most of them up when they come for a visit.
I also learned that she was going to hang it up for the day after she dropped me off because she was attending a study group tonight.  She had graduated from Massage Therapy School but had not taken the boards yet because of the $500 cost and she wants to make sure she passes it the first time.
Not bad conversation for a 15 minute cab ride.
But what I haven’t mentioned yet is what she told me when I first got in the cab when I asked her that simple, mundane question: “How has your day been?”
Her response caused that sermon that I have been mulling over since Sunday come to the front of my mind again.
She told me it was not a good day because earlier she had a passenger who didn’t pay.  And it was a large fare - $63 she painfully explained.   It was obvious the $63 dollars was eating at her.  I strongly suspect it was eating at her a lot.
So I thought about the sermon on “Generosity” I heard a few days earlier and as I asked her a “million” questions during our 15 minutes together, I began to realize that this cab ride was not an accident nor was the sermon I heard on Sunday from my Pastor and friend, Jerry Walls.
 This young lady needed me and I needed her.
As she pulled the cab in front of the hotel, I asked her what I owed her.  “Thirty dollars and eighty cents,” she quickly said.   I gave her my credit card and tipped her well.
Then I gave her my card again.
  I asked her to run the card again for $63.  She was obviously stunned and quickly said I cannot let you do that.  I said I wanted to do it and to please run the card and she very reluctantly did so. I also tipped her well for the jerk who had stolen the $63 dollar ride from her.   I heard her say very softly and almost under her breath as she was running the second card,   “I will never forget this.”
I was thinking, neither will I……and I will write about it to make sure I never forget it.
When I got out of the car and made my way around to the back, I saw her tears.  I’m sure she saw mine.
I’m not sure what the Bellhops thought when they saw us do a little quick awkward hug.  Nor do I care, by the way.
After dinner tonight, I discovered the young lady lied to me about the $63 dollar ride.  The charge on my card before the tip was actually $62.60. 
That just validated for me that God orchestrated our fifteen minutes together. No way was this young lady going to steal even 40 cents from me.
I will admit – of all the cab rides I’ve taken in my life, today was the first time I have ever hugged the driver.
And I didn’t even get her name.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Older I Get the Better I See

I took a couple days off from work this week to help my wife babysit a couple of our beautiful grand baby girls in Atlanta so their parents could go on a trip.  We just got home after a busy few days for old folks but we had a blast.

My biggest challenge in chasing our little girls was every time I bent over my glasses would fall off my face.  This morning I decided I would take a short break and go to a nearby Target to their optical store to see if they could tighten my glasses.

When  I walked in the optical shop there was a nice middle aged lady sitting at one of the desks seemingly waiting on me to get there.  I asked her if she could possibly tighten my glasses and I would be more than happy to pay her whatever the going rate is for such procedures.  She said she would be very glad to do so and there would be no charge.

So I sat at the little desk (pretty much in a fog without my glasses) while the very nice lady took my only glasses in the back room to work on them.

It was a little disconcerting to me a few moments later when I heard her make a gasping noise coupled with a fairly loud “oh no!”  She came back to my little desk to tell me she had broken my glasses.  I’m sure she had a look of horror on her face but I could not see enough to tell whether she did or not.

I chose to keep my cool as I began to wonder what I would do without my glasses. The fact that I am leaving on a week long business trip on Sunday was on my mind when she told me it takes a minimum of five business days to get new glasses.   I was thinking my prescription sunglasses might work for a week.

As my mind was spinning, I remember her saying the odds of finding frames in the store to match my lenses was about 1 to 100.   I was not very optimistic in this particular optical shop but I was committed to watching it (no pun intended) play out. She finally found a frame that she thought might work.  She told me I may not like the fact they were green but I was fine with green if I could see again. After some maneuvering and measuring, the nice but obviously upset lady decided they would not work.

Back to square one.

I’m not sure how many frames she picked up and measured before she found another frame that she thought might work.  Thankfully I was the only “customer” in the shop so my little problem had her undivided attention.  In a few quick moments, I heard the sound of excitement in her voice when she yelled to me that these frames did indeed work.

I was still seated at the little desk when she brought the new frames with my lenses to me to make sure they fit.  I told her they were perfect.  Actually, any variation  of “I can see” would have been perfect. 

She told me these were Ray Ban frames and they were expensive but she would not charge me for the frames because she broke my glasses.

I quickly told her that I was going to pay her for the new frames - whatever they cost.  I further explained that I heard her clearly when she told me when I walked in the store that she would tighten my glasses at no charge.  No way, I said, that I will leave without paying for the new frames.

Now I had my new glasses on and I could see.

She was crying.  

I’m not sure if the cost of the new frames would have come out of her check if I had not paid or she was emotional because a customer was being nice when maybe the customer had other options.

When I left,  there was one thing I could see very clearly.

That was the best money I have ever spent.

The older I get the better I see.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Things I've Learned as I've Gotten Older by Larry Walker

by Larry Walker

I’ve learned that you can leave your problems at work and pick ‘em up the next morning. Seldom do I take problems home with me.

I’ve leaned that family is the most important thing in my world. Daddy told me. Daddy was right.

I’ve learned that next to family, friends are most important. I’m blessed to have lots of friends.

I’ve learned that from the most powerful to the meekest, all people want to be recognized and appreciated.

I’ve learned that if you’ll let the other fellow do all the talking, you’ll be surprised at how smart he will think you are.

I’ve learned that the four most important words in dealing with people are: “What do you think?” Then, listen. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find out, and you’ll be pleased at how much they will like you.

I’ve learned that as to lots of things I really wanted, when I got ‘em, they don’t give me nearly the pleasure I thought they would.

I’ve learned that my work experiences as a youngster have meant much more to me than my play experiences.

I’ve learned that I’ve learned much more from my failures than I have from my successes.

I’ve learned that much of my success is because I have surrounded myself with folks that are smarter than I am.

I’ve learned that life is fast. Daddy liked to say that “the days get longer and the years get shorter.” Again, Daddy was right.

I’ve learned that the church or mosque or synagogue or whatever you call yours is what helps to hold society together and keeps us from having anarchy.

I’ve learned to slow down as life has speeded up. You can get to Atlanta almost as fast at 70 as you can at 79 - and, you stand a better chance at getting there safer.

I’ve learned that dogs are a lot smarter than I thought they were, and that our national leaders are not nearly as smart as they need to be.

I’ve learned that wisdom and common sense are rare commodities in today’s leadership market.

I’ve learned that too many folks are against more than they are for, and that it’s easier to tear down a house than it is to build one.

I’ve learned that athletes are bigger, stronger and faster, today, but not necessarily tougher, smarter or have more heart.

I’ve learned that technological advancements don’t necessarily make things faster or easier or make their users happier.

I’ve learned that everyone wants peace of mind and that so many don’t have it and never will.

I’ve learned that the most powerful thing in the world are the words “I love you” from someone who means them.

I’ve learned that most of us want mercy and not justice and, fortunately, that’s what most of us get.

I’ve learned that I will never understand why I was born of good parents in the most affluent country in the world, when so many were not.

I’ve learned that there is lots of style but much less class, and that class has nothing to do with money, position, intelligence or style.

I’ve learned that a smile and words like “please”, “thank-you”, “please forgive me”, and “I forgive you” will take you a long way in life.

I’ve learned that the busier I am, the more things I get done.

And lastly, I’ve learned that “the sun don’t shine on the same dog all the time”! 

That’s about the way it goes, isn’t it? 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Ruth Jones 1919-2015

Today I had the honor to speak at the funeral service for Mrs. Ruth Jones.  I've spoken at many funerals over the years and I usually just talk from key points I want to make.  In this case, I wrote it out.  I don't post this because I think many people will read it.  It's long.  But I post it because I want to make sure it is recorded here so others in the future who were not fortunate enough to live through this period in Reynolds GA and know people like Mrs. Ruth Jones, can at least have the opportunity to get a glimpse of some of what we experienced.  BG


I think it’s important to think about the purpose of us being here today.  

First we are here to celebrate the life of someone who impacted this community and this county in an enormous way.

For most of us here, she is remembered because she taught us in school.  She  began her teaching career in Dudley & Montezuma, but mostly she taught here at Reynolds High School, Reynolds Junior High School and Taylor County High School.  She had a huge influence on a lot of folks.  

For some of you she taught, you ended up teaching with her.  You got to see and appreciate a different side of her that the rest of us probably missed.

Some of you remember the first Girl Scout uniform you ever wore - and you know Mrs. Ruth was instrumental in that and you think of the “who knows how many hours” she volunteered her time for that.

For some, you volunteered with her at the Woman’s Club.  You have special memories of all the meetings and trips to other towns for other meetings - and the selfless hours that went into all that.

For some, you  were friends of her children.  At least one man here has memories of white paint - painting her son and her son painting you - and maybe even a little painting of the headlights of her car.

The common thread here is a close friendship -  the type of a friendship that most folks in bigger places know nothing about.

For a very special group, she was your grandmother.  You have memories that are special only to you.  She loved entertaining you and loved having you all at her house or wherever she was.  You will carry memories with you the rest of your life.  And you will continue to thank God for every one.

For another special group - she was your mother in law and the grandmother of your children.  You have special behind the scenes thoughts and memories and appreciation that none of the rest of us could ever know about.

For Priscilla, Beth, Jean, Harriet and Ronnie:  Above all the other stuff - she was your mama. You only have one mama.  The one person on earth who has loved you no matter what.  The memories you all share of her and those you share with each other - today are the greatest blessing in your life.  And that blessing will only get larger and larger as time goes on.  You are a close knit family.  And you know your mom has always been the glue that held that together.  You heart is conflicted today.  You smile because she did it so well- but your heart is very sad.  

The other purpose today is to honor God.  We honor God in this very special place -this church where many of us spent  a lot of time during the most formative years of our lives.  The place where the people here helped mold our lives spiritually- the people who God used to give us roots and wings.  For some of us, and certainly for Ruth and Roy Jones and this family, this church is a very special place.  

We learned a lot of things here.

We learned here to look at life and death from God’s perspective - we learned here that there is a time to live and a time to die.  We learned here that God gives and God takes away.  We learned here that God’s timing is always perfect. We learned here the greatest truth of all - that God loves us - and He has provided a way through His son -  for His children to live forever.  And we learned here that we can face this day and have that blessed hope that only He can give - that we will all see her again.

And we learned here how to love each other.

This story for me started in the fall of 1959.  They were ten magnificent ladies... and nine of the most formative years of my life.   I was just about to turn five years old when I started in Mrs. Crawley’s kindergarten class in the little building that was across the street from here in her backyard. 

 I finished the eighth grade in the early summer of 1968.   It was about four months before my 14th birthday.

When I walked out of what we called Reynolds Junior High School for the last time in late May of 1968, I thought my relationship with these 10 ladies was over. 

 Little did I know, it was just beginning.

I knew, (especially knew because of the business I grew up in) that their lives on earth would be surely limited by time. But I had no way of knowing how the memories would be forever etched in my mind.  

 Mrs. Crawley, Mrs. Ogburn, Mrs Verna, Mrs. Hollis, Mrs. Byrd, Mrs. Susie, Mrs. Fuller, Mrs Ruth, Mrs Betty and Mrs Payne.

I’m not sure why we called some of them by their last name and some by their first.  I know we always put a Mrs. (or maybe we said “Miss”) before each of their names.

But for whatever reason and for whatever we called them, these ladies’ influence on the people of this community (and as a result – way beyond this community) cannot be measured.  Yes they were schoolteachers, but they were much more.  They were parents and grandparents of some of our classmates.  They taught us in Sunday school.  They were friends with our parents – and in most cases those friendships were generational.

I can tell you this.  To grow up in this town in the late 50’s and early 60’s might have been my biggest blessing in life.  And I’ve had a few blessings.

For many of us, February 8, 2015 marked the end of an unforgettable era.  The last of those 10 magnificent ladies, who was so instrumental in so many lives, has passed away.

Mrs. Ruth Jones was the last one standing.  

As the other nine ladies, she taught us, invested in us, encouraged us, corrected us, punished us… and most of all, loved us. 

Mrs. Ruth was my 6th grade teacher but she also taught me in the 7th and 8th grade because we had started changing classes by then.   The fact that she and Mr. Roy were very close friends of my parents did not help.

She cut me no slack.

Maybe the only slack she cut me was the afternoon there was an autopsy being performed at our funeral home across the street.  I was 13 and daddy wanted me to see the autopsy.  Yep, he started me off early in the family business.   Daddy wrote his friend (and my teacher) a note.  It read – and it think this is verbatim, 

“Ruth, please excuse Bruce from Science class today.  He will be at the funeral home helping to perform an autopsy. He will learn plenty of science.”  Thanks, Ed

Mrs. Ruth kept a grade book on her desk.  In it one would not only find the grades for every test you had taken that six weeks,  but also if you looked at the line by your name, you would see how many demerits she had given you.   Those were the marks she would give you when you misbehaved in class.  Unbeknownst to her, I took a peek at the inside of that grade book at least a few times.

Donald Powell, who would eventually become the longtime US Postmaster in our town, would always have the most demerits.  He was way out in front. 

I would be second.   And nobody else would be even close.

A few years ago, Mrs Ruth invited me to speak to her friends and the staff at Jamestown, the Assisted Living facility she has lived in now for many years.

It was obvious to me that she was excited I was there.  She wanted me to make them laugh.  I forgot exactly all she said when she was introducing me but I remember one thing she said:

"I never thought this boy would make it in life.”

She was laughing when she said it, but I knew she was as serious as a heart attack.

I don’t know what she would have said if she was asked to introduce Donald.

But that day I’m sure she was thinking about the time I hid in the little covey hole of her desk during recess– the area where you put your feet and legs when you sit at a desk.  After the class resumed, I’m sure she was getting ready to give me one demerit for being late when I grabbed her ankles from under the desk.  I think I got at least a few demerits that day. A call to my parents from my teacher also resulted.

Or maybe she was thinking about the day it was my turn to say the blessing in class before going to lunch.  She didn’t say a word to me that day but she looked at me sternly and pulled out that grade book and made another mark – after I said the blessing.  I thought it was a good one:

“Lord bless us and bind us and put us where the devil can’t find us.”  

Everybody else laughed.  She didn’t.

Or maybe she was thinking about the time she was trying to pick up one of those heavy flip charts that was right next to my desk when the legs on it collapsed.  I wasn’t paying much attention when she yelled, “Bruce, grab the legs!”  I grabbed both of her ankles and held on tightly.  

 I have to admit, even she laughed that day.

Or maybe she was thinking about the trip back from Epworth By the Sea from our summer Methodist church camp.   I think one parent would take us down there for camp and another would come get us after the week was over.   I remember vividly she was bringing us back on one of those trips.  Maybe it was the food we had eaten that week.  Or maybe it was that God awful water they had to drink down there.  I’ll just say she made us roll all the windows down of that car just to get air from the foul odor.

We were happy campers.  She was not.

Or maybe she was thinking about the MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship)  meetings and suppers she hosted at her house.  I’m sure she was able to calm us down at least for a few minutes of serious religion – but I would think she was probably saying, “I have to have them at school.  Why in the world do I put this on myself and bring them to my house!”

So I knew she was serious when she made that “I didn’t think he would make it” statement. 

But I also knew why she had invited me that day.

Our relationship did not end when I was 13 years old and I graduated from Reynolds Jr. High School.  We would be friends for the next 47 years.  

I buried her husband of 50 years – who happened to be my dad’s best friend on the earth.  I remember walking through that with her and thinking how relationships change as we get older.  I was no longer the little brat that drove her crazy – but the person to walk with her through the most difficult time of her life.

We took at least one long road trip together.  She called me one day to ask me if I traveled to Brunswick in all my travels.   She wanted to hitch a ride to go see Priscilla.  We made that trip.   Just the two of us.   About 9 hours total (going and coming).   That was about as fun as it gets.  I can tell you that we had no trouble making conversation. 

I heard her say more than once, when you are with a Goddard you don’t have to worry about conversation. They will take care of it.

And I can also tell you the trip included a lot of laughter.  

Who could ever forget her laugh?

As an adult,  I visited her in her home many times and I visited her at the assisted living facility - a few times.  I wish I had visited more.  Even when she got to where she could not hear so well, she lit up when I walked in the room – as she did when any of her former students visited her. 

Jimmy Childre, Will Crawley and I stopped by Jamestown one afternoon.  We were all in that same class that graduated from Jr High School in 1968.   We were in Fort Valley for a funeral and decided to go see her.  She couldn’t hear too well but her face absolutely lit up when the three of us walked in that room.  We could have never known that Will, our classmate and friend, would die not too long after that visit.

All of us visit our senior friends who can’t get out from time to time.  They love it and it makes us feel as good as it makes them feel.

Maybe that’s a lesson for all of us today.

Why don’t we visit them more?

Mrs. Ruth didn’t read this poem to us that day when we left – but somehow I think she may have been thinking it:

Blessed are they who understand my faltering step and shaking hand.
Blessed are they who know my ears today must strain to catch the things they say.
Blessed are they who seem to know that my eyes are dim and my wits are slow.
Blessed are they who looked away when I spilled the coffee at the table today.
Blessed are they with the cheery smile who take the time to chat for a while.
Blessed are they who know the ways to bring back memories of yesterdays.
Blessed are they who make it known I’m loved, respected and not alone.

Interestingly, the two questions I asked myself when I heard  this weekend that she was in Hospice care were– “When did I last see her?  Why didn’t I go more often?”

The times I did visit were rich.  We always talked about old times.   She would tell me stories about my dad and Mr. Roy – stories I’ve heard many times but the kind that never grow old.   We would talk about our particular class – one that she would never forget because her third child Jean was in it.  

Yes I know why she invited me that day – even though at one time she had a very good reason to think I would not amount to much.

She was proud of me.  Just as she was proud of all her students.  In her eyes, I was part of the fruit of her labor.  

And for the record,   I wanted her to be proud of me.

At this stage in my life, I really don’t spend time seeking approval from a lot of folks.  But I did want her approval.  I wanted her to know the investment she made in me made a difference in my life.  I wanted her to know the times she sent me to the office and the time she called my parents and the times those demerits showed up on my report card – paid off for me. 

And for her.

Mrs. Ruth Jones was a key player and influencer in my life.  And in a lot of other lives in this room and in this community.

This morning we are back at this church where she was a member for 67 years.  The church she spent who knows how many hours volunteering for everything under the sun.  Back to the church where she raised her 5 children.

And by the way, speaking of her five children – if you think she was proud of all those students she invested in – it pales in comparison of how proud she was of you  and your mates and your children and your children’s children.

You all are recipients of God’s grace.  You had nothing to do with the fact that Roy and Ruth Jones were your parents.  You didn’t choose them.  You really had nothing to do with it.

God did it. And He has lavished His grace on you.  

You loved her. You honored her.  You took care of her.  You made sure she had everything she needed.   You honored your mother in her life and it her death.

You did it right.

We will leave here shortly and place her earthly body next to your dad at Hillcrest Cemetery.  

Her earthly life is done. She did it with class and she did it well.

But take it from someone who has experienced what you are experiencing today - the memories and the influence are about to go to the next level.  The mental pictures she has created for you will become more and more alive.

And the tears will turn to smiles and thanksgiving.

For many of us “other folks” here, the last of these ten magnificent ladies – who were such a big part of all our lives – is gone.  All we can do and should do is give thanks to God that we were fortunate enough to be under their umbrella during the most formative years of our lives.

Make no mistake; Mrs. Ruth Jones is alive in heaven today.  But she is also alive on earth.  Because she is alive in all of us she invested her life in.

As long as we tell the stories and as long as we have breath, we’ll keep her alive.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

James Henry Mathews - He Did it Right

It seems like another lifetime ago.  I graduated from UGA and then Mortuary College and came home to join my older brother and my dad in the family business …or should I say businesses.  There were a couple of funeral homes, an ambulance service and we built a brand new grocery store - leaving the building my family had occupied for over 100 years.

I learned a lot.  When I think I was only 23 years old at the time amazes me.  I actually learned a whole lot.  The hard way.

I learned about making payroll.  I learned about borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. I learned about responsibility.  I learned about stress.  I learned about people and leadership.  It was the worst of times.

But was the best of times.

There is no doubt all I learned by jumping into the fire  at a young age in the business world helped me later in life and in what I do today.

These memories came rushing back to me this morning when I read on Facebook that James Henry Mathews had passed away.

I’m not sure the year we hired him at Goddard Red & White Grocery Store, but I would guess it would be 1978.   His dad (Son Buddy Mathews) brought him in the store and asked us if we would consider hiring him.  My brother and I gave him a shot.

James Mathews seized the opportunity.

I don’t think I ever knew anyone who tried harder than James did.  He was never late to work.  And he never stopped until he punched the clock when he was leaving.  He made a few mistakes along the way but we didn’t care.  He made up for it with his determination.

Determination to do well.  Determination to keep the first real job he ever had.  

It wasn’t long before he knew every customer who came in the store.  He would speak to them and call them by name and thank them for shopping with us.  The entire community loved him.

And we loved him.

We sold the store after about four years of operating it.  James stayed with the new owners for a year or so.  But others in the business community had also noticed him.  He was soon offered a job at Flint Electric Membership Corp and ended up working there until he retired.

My brother and I had nothing to do with James having a great career and life.  I am very glad we gave him an opportunity. .  He earned his career by his own determination to do well that came from a strong faith in God that was instilled in him by his parents.   All I can do is tip my hat to him.

Tonight I also thank God I had the privilege to know him and at one time be a part of his life.

RIP buddy.  You did it right.