The Greatest Gifts of All

This afternoon, I went to BirkdaleVillage in Huntersville and stopped by a few stores including Kilwin’s for some fudge and assorted candies for the holiday. Then it was off to Cornelius to Honey Baked Ham Company for our Christmas Eve dinner before a last stop at NorthLake Mall.  Look around the lake towns and you’ll find our stores have geared up for the busiest days of the year.  Retailers sell more in the fourth quarter than they do all year and our merchants are hoping for a much better 2011 than the last few years!

The sights and sounds of Christmas fill the air as the Salvation Army rings their bells at the malls and area grocery stores bringing holiday cheer as you approach.  Radio stations are slipping in our favorite holiday classics between today’s modern hits.

I cannot help thinking of Christmas without getting a little nostalgic about how we all went to both sets of grandparents for Christmas.  It started with dinner at Grandmamma Feemster’s and ended with the Russell’s later in the evening.  For many years I was the first grandchild on the Russell side and my cousin’s father was in the military and they were often stationed around the country leaving me with most of the presents.  I was spoiled rotten!

I always believed the best gifts came in the biggest boxes and always delighted when someone put a large box under the tree with my name on it.  When I was just a little tike, and on one of the few Christmas Eve’s when my cousin Jim and Kim Lever were home, I was taken back when my cousins received new toys from my grandparents and I had a stuffed monkey in my box.

I’ve heard the story recounted many times how I cried getting the monkey.  Try as they might, no one could stifle my tears or convince me I had the most marvelous gift.  Mom confided to me years later that Grandmamma picked out the toy herself and actually spent more on it than the other gifts put together.  All four grandparents worked at the mill, but the Feemster’s just scraped by.  But to this day, I’m convinced that both felt they had all the riches of the world.

Granddaddy loved the outdoors and fishing and Grandmother loved her daughters and her family.  The Lord blessed them both and they had all they needed.

After a while, Granddaddy Feemster grew tired of my crying and proceeded to snatch up the stuffed animal and tossed it out into the front yard.  “There, there’s nothing more to cry about.  He’s gone,” Granddaddy proclaimed. 

My tears dried up immediately and with a flash I jumped up and ran out the door to fetch my beloved friend.  I seldom slept without that stuffed animal for many years and ironically it is the only toy left from my youth.  My G.I. Joes, matchbox cars, baseball cards, and comic books have all been lost.  But Grandmamma put away the monkey and re-presented it to me one Christmas Eve in my teens.

Today, it sits on a shelf in my den, not far from a chair with a hand crocheted afghan blanket that my Grandmother Russell made for me.  I suppose some time ago, I realized it’s not the gifts you receive but the love in the gifts you give that matter most. 

Kim, Bill Jr., and Jim Jr.

Over the next couple of days that are left for your Christmas shopping – when you hear that bell from the Salvation Army, drop a little more in for that family that needs it.  Put in a little extra at Church this Sunday or at Christmas Mass.  Bottom line – open your wallets and your heart this Christmas.

My Grandparents are all gone now. I lost Grandmamma Feemster last February.  But nearly every winter I wrap up in the afghan Grandmamma Russell made me and on more than a few occasions I take the monkey off the shelf and hold him.  The cotton has thinned in places and the stuffing pokes out. But almost fifty years later, it’s still filled with a Grandmother’s love.  They both knew, it’s not the biggest gift that counts but the one that comes from the heart that matters most.


People are the greatest profits

The international pharmaceutical corporation, Merck and Company, has always stressed that it was not just another drug company looking at making a profit.  It has always impressed upon its workforce that service to humanity is the best work of life.  About three decades ago, in the 1980’s, Merck and Company developed a drug that could cure river blindness, a disease that infects and causes blindness in millions of people, particularly those in developing companies with diminished infrastructure.

While it was a great product, the targeted consumer was perhaps the least able to afford the drug.  The customer simply could not afford to by it.  So what did the pharmaceutical company do?  It developed and manufactured the drug anyway and in 1987 announced that it would give the medicine free to anyone who needed it.  By the following year, the company had given away more than 250 million tablets.

George W. Merck said, “We try never to forget that medicine is for people.  It is not for profits.  The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear.”

This past month the Chamber heard an outstanding presentation from Jim Stella, a retail development specialist from ElectriCities.  Recently the utility company studied demographics and buying trends from the North Mecklenburg Communities of Cornelius, Davidson, and Huntersville.

A particular focus was what market segments do we have an over-supply, what segments could be targeted for retail growth, and what is the leakage to other communities.  The big take away from the session was how much we as a community and region support our fellow businesses.  The data strongly supported families who lived in Cornelius shopped in Huntersville and residents in Davidson bought goods and supplies in Mooresville as well as their own town.

As a Chamber of  Commerce, the message of “Buy Local” is extremely important.  Those dollars we spend in a local retail store or restaurant are turned several times in our community putting people to work and growing the local business community.

While no doubt the reason folks shop at stores and businesses in the lake is because of the deals they find and the service they receive.  But a big part of it is also the relationships we enjoy here.  We’re all one big family.   We also have some of the most compassionate and generous businesses owners, managers, and employees you would ever meet.  Our local charities: Ada Jenkins, United Way, Big Day at the Lake, Habitat for Humanity, Angels and Sparrows and many countless others are testaments to the fact that local businesses at the lake are not just focused on being great businesses, they are part of being part of something bigger than their own business.

Christmas in Davidson

This holiday season, when you look at buying that gift for someone special – shop the lake and the many businesses that make our region so special.  When you see that volunteer asking for a contribution to help someone in need – consider giving just a little bit more.  Do something good in business – profits will follow.  Do something good for someone else – you change a life. Quite possibly – your own!

 Happy Holidays!