Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

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.

December 22, 2011 Posted by | Personal | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Grandmamma’s advice

geeseWhen I was a little boy, I had a tendency to be a bit mischievous.  As hard to believe as it is, I seemed to have a knack for getting into some type of predicament. My Grandmother Russell used to say l didn’t have the sense God gave a goose.  Being the smart little lad I was at the time, I wondered why anyone would even want to be as smart as a goose.  Since then my grandmamma has passed on and I’ve grown a little older, but I’m not sure sometimes how far I’ve made it out of the mischievous state.  I did, however, do my research on this goose thing.

For instance, nearly all of us have observed geese flying south for the winter.  When they do, they fly in, a “V” formation. Did you know that flying in a “V” formation gives the whole flock a 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own. What can we learn from that? People who share a common direction and a sense of community can get where they want to go quicker and easier if they travel on the thrust of one another.  Another interesting thing about a goose is when the lead goose gets tired, she rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point.  It pays to take turns doing hard jobs … with people, or geese flying south for the winter.  I guess the last interesting thing I found out about a goose is when a goose gets sick, or is wounded by gunshot and falls out, two geese fall out of formation and follow down to protect it. They stay with it until it is either able to fly or is dead, then they launch on their own to catch up with the group.  Wouldn’t it be neat if people stood by each other like that.geese 2

Yesterday, I heard the geese high overhead. I thought about what I’d read and the number of times I heard grandmamma compare me that goose. I’m not sure how much Grandmother Russell knew about birds, but she sure knew a lot about people. More importantly, she knew a lot about mischievous little boys who didn’t have the sense of a goose.

September 12, 2009 Posted by | Leadership Lessons | , , , | Leave a comment

Speech to the South Carolina Jaycees Fall 1993

South Carolina Junior Chamber of Commerce

Fall Board of Directors Meeting

Columbia, South Carolina

Sunday, November 14, 1993

 

South Carolina Jaycees, it’s great to be home.  Live from St. George, S.C. the cultural Mecca of the South.  When I arrived on Friday evening, I had pretty much prepared my opening and closing remarks.  However, I have always thought, the best talks I gave you were the ones from the heart.  Sitting at the table yesterday, I listened as one of my Jaycee Heroes – Robby Dawkins addressed our Jaycees.  Robby began by dedicating his speech.  It dawned on me… I’ve never done that and I believe I want to today.

 

My first Jaycee speech came some ten years ago when I ran for district director for district three.  Since that time I have given speeches to many different organizations…the Rotary, Kiwanis, Moose, Elks and all of the other animal clubs.  I’ve given talks in 47 states in towns and cities I’ve long forgot.  But in all those times, I’ve never dedicated a speech to an individual.

 

I remember David Duncan, our former state legal counsel and a fellow Rock Hill Jaycee once told me, I’d go far in this organization if I could just learn to speak.  Well, in those ten years, I don’t know if I’ve improved very much, but I certainly have had more podium exposure than David Duncan…sorry David!

 

Portland, Oregon…and being elected national president of our organization was one of the biggest thrills of my life. South Carolina  Lt. Governor Nick Theodore said it best yesterday when he reminded us all that it was the generation of Jaycees who came before us, and many still in this room today, who gave Robby and myself the opportunity we experienced as national presidents of our great organization – The United States Junior Chamber of Commerce.  Many of my family members were unable to attend.  However, the national office captured much of the event and the speeches on video.  I remember my Grandmother Russell, after watching a video, said, “You speak as well as any of those Kennedy boys.”  I told my Grandmother being a Conservative Republican and compared to a Kennedy was not exactly a compliment.  

 

However, to my Grandmother Russell…it was the highest compliment she could pay.  To her, the Democratic party was the party that pulled her family out of the Great Depression.  It was the party of the working man…the farmer…the poor.  Two months after taking office as president, my father made a call to me.  They had found a cancer in grandmamma…”Bumba” we children called her. She was in her seventies and faced with radical surgery, my Grandmother said she would place her fate in God’s hands.  “Just pray for me,” she asked.  Throughout the year, Bumba rarely left my thoughts.

 

When I called home from our headquarters in Tulsa, she would tell me how proud she was of her grandson.  While she loved all the grandchildren, I had been the first and both grandmothers spoiled me terribly.  So I get it honest huh?  I invited her out to the Ten Outstanding Young Americans program (TOYA) – our premier Jaycee event.  Unfortunately her health would not allow it, although my grandfather attended with my dad.  She asked that I tape it for her….”I know you’ll do good.” I could almost feel the smile on her face from the end of the phone.

Bumba with Grandaddy Russell - 50 Year Anniversary

Bumba with Grandaddy Russell - 50 Year Anniversary

 

 

 

Three weeks after our summer board meeting, Grandmamma lost her battle with cancer … just two days shy of my birthday.  She never had the chance to see me speak in person.  She will today, this speech is for Bumba.

 

A little while ago, I passed someone in the hall who asked what I was speaking about. Before I had the chance to answer, some other Jaycee walking by and overhearing the question, shot back…”membership…doesn’t he always!”  It was much more of a statement than a question.  But I realized long ago, you can’t train people to be leaders if you don’t have people.  You can’t run projects without people.  No matter how good your individual development programs are, it does no good at all without people.  Face it…we’re in the people business.

 

Listening to Lt. Governor Theodore yesterday, I cannot put it any more eloquently.   His charge to you was to involve more people.  He knows what the Junior Chamber has meant to him…go share it with others…you never know where the next Lt. Governor…perhaps Governor will get their start!

 

I’d like to spend a few minutes talking with you about the challenges that face America…challenges I have witnessed in my travels across our country and the half dozen countries I visited representing our membership.  You see…there is much we Jaycees could change…if we wanted to.

 

If you were in Greensboro, NC you heard me talk about picking up a Tulsa World newspaper last December and seeing men and women surrounded by armed guards.  That may not sound unusual, but these men and women were not protesters or rioters.  They were Christmas Carolers.  The Town of Vienna, Virginia had outlawed the singing of religious songs on public property.  So the men, women and children of Vienna had to sing Silent Night behind barricades.

 

Sounds much like one of the countries Robby Dawkins traveled to in Eastern Europe while he was world president of Junior Chamber International … perhaps Russia or Estonia.  Instead it was America…1992.

 

There is an organization raising hell because we’re not raising enough money for AIDS research.  Don’t misinterpret what I’m about to say…we do need to educate more people about sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS.  But that very same group is introducing “How to sex manuals” in our public schools.  How to have sex with the opposite sex, same sex, sex in every conceivable way…to our children in schools?  Is that the education we need?

 

That same group, known as “Act Up”, are upset because we’re not spending enough money on AIDS research.  AIDS is the ninth leading cause of death in America. Yet, three months ago, President Bill Clinton slashed assistance to MDA, Cancer and Heart Disease while increasing AIDS funding by 30%.  While I’m not opposed to raising and spending more money for research on AIDS.  Who cries out for the child born with low birth weight?  Who’s wearing ribbons for the people suffering from cancer and heart disease?

 

What about the teenager who’ll never see 23 because of Cystic Fibrosis?  The activist of America have taken charge.  In Tulsa, Oklahoma, while flipping between channels a lesbian appeared on C-Span and talked about how she had recently introduced the book, “Heather has Two Mommies and Daddy Has A Boyfriend.”  She said that it was her goal to recruit those children to their lifestyle.  Listen – what consenting adults choose to do is their business.  But the children are a different issue.

 

Animal rights groups are showing slides on how some cow was put to death and mutilated so mommy can have meatloaf on the table to our kids in schools …and yet three weeks ago, the Gideon’s were kicked off a campus because they wanted to distribute Bibles to those who wanted them.

 

Thank goodness, there’s an organization of young people who believe that “Faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life.”  In a time when we spend so much time segregating Church and State, we should realize you can’t separate God and Government.  This country was founded on freedom of religion…not freedom from religion.  The Ten Commandments are not the Ten Suggestions…they’re commandments.  Many of the religions of the world contain them as a basis for their core beliefs.

 

Jaycees have always supported the president and though I didn’t vote for Bill Clinton, I agree with him on the North American Free Trade Agreement.  NAFTA will be good for America.  It will be good for South Carolina.  However, a few months ago he introduced the National Service Act which will pay the tuition of college kids if they go out and perform community service.  In a country that is three trillion dollars in debt, we don’t need any more social service programs. On the contrary, we need to find a way to cut the national debt.  It is the responsibility of every American to improve their community.  It is our obligation as citizens.  You should not have to pay people for that.

 

Our government takes from the pockets of those who work hard and gives to those who choose not to work.  Our welfare program is nothing but legalized stealing.  What kind of incentives are we giving to Americans to give their very best?  Thank God there’s an organization who believe in “free men through free enterprise.”

 

I remember watching the film of John Kennedy who said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – but what you can do for your country.”  Today, that credo has changed…Today your government asks “what more can we give you?  …don’t worry, somebody else will pay for it.”  It’s time to take a stand.

 

Critics talk about the faults of our educational system.  But the education of children start in the home.  If you don’t teach children values, teachers will not be able to when they get to school.  Your children are a model of yourselves.  You need to look at Jaycee kids like Kelly Pickering and David Watson to understand what Jaycees and the Junior Jaycees program does for our children.

 

America is crying out for leadership.  Nick said it yesterday.  The future leaders of our communities, towns, and school boards are sitting in this room.  State President Young asked me to motivate you.  Well….I cannot.  You see, motivation is a personal thing.  It comes from within.  No amount of shirts, plaques, points, or parades are going to get you to do something you don’t want to do.  You have to feel passionately about something.  Motivation is a personal thing.

 

I can’t tell you what to believe nor would I try.  I can tell you I believe in those 65 words of the Jaycee Creed.  I believe that Government should be of laws rather than of men and it’s high time we stopped letting the activist groups of this country determine our future.  When extremist groups cry out loudly to be heard… the majority of Americans just want to be comfortable.  Well …I haven’t been comfortable in a long time.

 

I thank God I have the opportunity to work every day as a Chamber of Commerce Executive.  Working to improve the quality of life for our citizens; provide educational opportunities for our children; to bring quality health care to our region.  It gives me a chance to live out our creed.  There’s a quote I ran across long ago that represents what I live my life by.  Some credit it to Lincoln…others to George Bernard Shaw, it goes like this:

 

     “This is the true joy of life, that being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one.  Being a force of nature, instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.  I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.  I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, because the harder I work the better I live. 

 

Life is no brief candle to me.  It is but a splendid torch which I have gotten hold of for just a moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before I hand it off to the next generation.”

 

You want a reason to get motivated….I can give you 200.  Two hundred children who have depended on the South Carolina Jaycees since 1960 for a summer camp in Clemson.  A dream for the mentally impaired children of our state…a dream called hope – Camp Hope.  This year we’ve raised $42,000 and that’s great.  But I see an organization made up of 10,000 South Carolina Jaycees raising $200,000.  I see an organization working hard so that one day, we don’t need the camp at all.

 

     Get that fire folks.  Ross Perot said it, Bill Clinton picked it up….Take this jfk00012country back.  You are the next generation of leaders.  The torch has been passed.  I know you can.  Because you would settle for nothing less.  South Carolina can feel the power of her young people.  God bless you and God bless the South Carolina Junior Chamber of Commerce.

April 28, 2009 Posted by | Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycee) Speeches | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment