Like many of you, I have been following the back and forth antics in Washington between President Donald Trump and our leaders in Congress. The news media, Facebook, and Twitter are all inundated with pundits, politicians and sometimes “Friends” weighing in on who’s gone too far, who’s to blame, and just how wrong the other side is on the issue of the day.
Regardless of what political party with which you may affiliate – you likely believe it’s the other political party and its leadership who could or would be leading this country in a direction which will surely spell doom for this and future generations.
I think both sides have gone way too far in this war of words and political theater. The President and Members of Congress may be playing to their political base, but it is not leadership and certainly not the example we need to send to our young people.
I am reminded of the adage – “Leadership is doing the right thing when no one is watching.”
As a kid growing up in Rock Hill, South Carolina, I still recall the taunts and jeers from other children who picked on me for being a small, thin, and somewhat puny little kid. Today, that’s called bullying and bullies are often harshly rebuked. Back then – it was toughen up or fight back.
Their harsh words stung and holding back the tears that welled up in my eyes, I countered the familiar refrain, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but your words will never hurt me!” But they did hurt… badly, and while time has faded the scars, the memories still linger.
Our nation’s history is filled with patriotism and prejudice. There is much to take pride in and much to give pause over. The indomitable spirit as Americans stormed the beaches at Normandy, led the breakthroughs in technology, medicine, and space exploration and emerged as the preeminent superpower and beacon of Democracy is the envy of much of the world. Conversely, the treatment of African Americans, Native Americans, and Japanese Americans are stains on a glorious landscape of unprecedented achievement.
Our political leadership toss around words like “racism” and “sexist” so cavalierly that it begins to lose its impact. If someone disagrees in a partisan or philosophical discussion, then they must simply be insensitive or just plain ignorant.
This past August (August 6th) an event took taking place across this country. No, it wasn’t a protest or Antifa demonstration. Instead, it was an opportunity for our local citizens, and in particular families, to participate in National Night Out. The community event is a night where local police and public safety officers, including our firefighters and EMT’s, come together each year with our community, as we work to create safer communities for our families and businesses.
While we may not be able to change the tone in Washington, together we can set an example at home with our children – the generation who will inherit this nation – and say Thank You to the Men and Women who bravely serve and protect us each and every day. If you missed this year’s event – it will take place again the first Tuesday in August 2020.
President Ronald Reagan said, “It’s not enough to be equal in the eyes of God, we must be equal in the eyes of each other.” That message can begin one family and one community at a time, and it can start with us here at Lake Norman!
Words can hurt – or they can heal. Perhaps we all need to ask ourselves one thing when we prepare to lay our head on the pillow tonight – “What did our own words do today?”
One month ago, I lost my father to cancer. Daddy was much more than a dad. He was my mentor, my confidante, my supporter, my best friend and the inspiration for much of what I have done in my life. My mom has also been a guiding influence and I love her dearly. But as Lewis Grizzard put it best, “My daddy was a pistol and I’m a son of a gun.”
If you’ve been a Chamber Member for a while, you may have read the countless articles and columns I have written about my father and grandfather and the lessons I learned growing up on our family farm. The house and the halls where my father and his father roamed, along with the pastures they trod, and the rich soil we turned in the garden together, hold special memories for me.
My dad, a lifelong member of Bethesda Presbyterian Church, was an Ordained Elder of the church, and served as Clerk of Session. It surprised me when I learned that he did not want a church funeral. Instead, he requested a small graveside service and a visitation of just family and close friends upon his passing.
While my Dad spent much of his lifetime committed to civic service, with years of dedication to the Red Cross, Kiwanis, Jaycees, Little League and other community activities, deep down he was simply a quiet man and was not one for show. That’s one quality I’ve yet to learn from daddy. I have always struggled with the “humility thing” and since I was young, I kind of thought the world may indeed revolve around me.
Daddy would have been taken aback by the hundreds of people who crammed into Greene’s Funeral Home in Rock Hill on that mournful Saturday afternoon. Jaycee friends from across the state drove hours to visit with our family, and to share in our moment of reflection on the life that had impacted so many in 81 years.
In addition to the family and friends, more than 50 Lake Norman Chamber members also drove down to South Carolina for my father’s funeral. Some were former or current chamber board leadership, others were long time chamber members, and many were Lake Norman neighbors I’ve been lucky enough to meet and call friends. A few never met him, yet they all gave up their Saturday and drove for several hours through the challenges of I-77 for one reason – to show they cared. And to each you who were there on the saddest day of my life, your presence was a comfort that I will never forget.
I’ve often been asked what makes the Lake Norman Chamber different from any other Chamber. The answer for me has always been simple – We are a family. We encourage each other when we need inspiration and we’re there for each other when times are tough. And we celebrate together. This month we added to our family at the Chamber with the addition of Sylvia Spury who many may know from her 18 years of service with the Mooresville South Iredell Chamber. She has 20 years of Chamber experience and we are so lucky to have her on our team.
The past month has been one of tremendous difficulty for me personally due to the loss of my father. The announcement that Sylvia had been selected as the new Executive Vice President caused some to wonder if I had left the chamber or was retiring to our family farm. But the reality is we hired Sylvia to complement our chamber leadership team and we are very excited to have her on our staff. She brings new ideas, vision, and synergy to our organization. We’ve also just unveiled a new chamber website which will allow us to unleash unbridled opportunities when it comes to marketing and promoting our chamber membership.
At the end of the graveside service, after most had driven the long road home, a close friend shared a conversation that she’d had with a previous chamber board chairman. When she thanked Bob McIntosh and his wife Ann for coming to support us that day, Bob simply said, “It’s all about family. We show up because it matters. It’s what we do.”
I am grateful that the Lord gave me a great father to learn from and love. While his saddle may now be empty, his presence in my life still fills my heart and lifts my soul, as so many of you have also done this past month.
The words Bob McIntosh conveyed that afternoon embody why I have spent 23 years at this Chamber of Commerce. We’re family here at Lake Norman. That is and will always be the difference. We do the things we do because it matters. It’s what we do.
Perhaps my favorite summer activity is gardening. I really enjoy going down to our farm in Rock Hill and working the ground that my dad, grandfather, and great-grandfathers toiled. Perhaps the best thing about the garden is that the investment in labor always yields a bountiful harvest of fresh vegetables that keep my family and friends very happy.
A few summers ago, I drove through the back roads to the farm and passed by a little lemonade stand by the side of the road. A little girl sat at a folding table and chair with a handwritten sign that said, “Fresh Lemonade.” There was also what appeared to be a glass pitcher and a few Dixie cups stacked as she waited patiently for a thirsty customer who would certainly come along.
I did not have time to stop then, but made a mental note to drop by for a cool drink after working in the garden in the hot afternoon sun. After spending a few hours tilling the soil and tying up the tomatoes, I packed up and headed home. The little girl was still in her chair, head resting on her left hand, as she slumped down on the table.
I pulled my car over and walked over to her stand. She jumped up and beamed a big smile as I asked her for a cup of her cold lemonade. To be truthful, the lemonade was a little warm as the afternoon sun had taken a toll on the ice. However, after a long day in the garden, the beverage was tasty and really hit the spot. She charged me a whopping 25 cents.
After downing the delectable treat, I asked if I could have a refill. She indicated that would require another quarter. She carefully poured a second beverage, handed me my drink, and held out her hand for payment. I pulled out a $5 bill and her eyes widened and mouth dropped in awe. The little girl timidly said, “Sir, I do not have enough change.” I told her that was okay, she could keep the change as a tip. As I drove away, I watched in the rear view mirror as she dashed back to her house waving the money. Based on her excitement, I am guessing that she made more in one visit with me than she did all day.
The little girl’s location was not ideal – located on a lonely country back road where you’re more likely to see a stray dog wander by before the occasional car. She clearly wasn’t prepared for any large transactions but I really admired the fact she stuck it out through the hot summer heat.
That lemonade stand was similar to many businesses that are located in low traffic areas or operate without a solid business or marketing plan. The Lake Norman Chamber helps in those situations. We provide businesses with numerous opportunities to build new relationships through our many networking opportunities. Our chamber also gives business owners and managers’ new tools and knowledge needed for success, including presentations in financial planning, sales training, marketing, risk management, HR issues and other personal and business topics.
Unlike a lemonade stand, our lake businesses cannot afford to make critical errors in planning, financing, and marketing their business. Our businesses are like a garden which requires constant attention. You do not just plant a seed – you have to constantly provide care. Tilling, hoeing out the rows, fertilizing the ground, and supplying it with plenty of water. However, if you put in the effort and investment in the business, the time spent building new relationships and cultivating existing ones, will yield a bountiful harvest and a successful business.
I’m not sure how much lemonade that little girl sold that afternoon but just thinking about her brings a big smile to my face. I hope she’s back there again this summer. A fresh pitcher of cool lemonade and perhaps this time a cookie or two.
12 Green Peppers – Hot & Bell (Hot sweet Bananas) *
3 cups sugar (Original recipe! – I cut back on sugar, no more than 1 1/2 cups) *
1/2 cups salt
1 tablespoon Celery Seed
2 Tablespoons Mustard Seed
1 1/2 Teaspoon Tumeric
4 cups Vinegar (Tillie used white vinegar. I prefer Apple Cider and just a splash of Balsamic for additional flavor) *
2 cups water
Chop vegetables up and let stand overnight in salt. Rinse vegetables and drain 24 hours later and then combine other ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer 3 minutes. Seal in hot sterilized jars.
I take liberties with the original using the Apple Cider and Balsamic Vinegars (just a splash of the Balsamic as you do not want to discolor the batch. I also add just a touch of fresh garlic to each jar and always use vidalia onions. For a slightly hotter batch, cut a slice of hot pepper and put in the jar before sealing.
Mama (Sarah Feemster Russell) says you should always let the batch set up a couple of weeks before serving. I tend to put a small jar in the fridge I’m tasting from.
This is the recipe that Jim and Tillie Feemster passed down – my grandparents. Enjoy!
The uncharacteristically warm days these past few weeks had me climbing into the attic to retrieve my summer clothes in anticipation of the spring and summer days ahead. Grabbing what I thought to be a box of summer shirts, turned out instead to be old scrapbooks and albums.
Feeling nostalgic, I found myself perusing through a worn binder filled with grade school pictures and most of my early report cards. I laughed when I read the comments from my first and second grade teachers who cited “Billy is much too talkative” and “Billy is a really busy boy,” which was polite southern speak for “Billy simply cannot stay in his seat!”
The truth is I was a very bad student in elementary school and there is a real place in heaven for those teachers whose patience was extremely taxed teaching such an immature and talkative kid. It was not until high school that I hit my stride and found a love of history, political science, and writing. I have to admit, there are times I wish I could go back and thank those women who persevered with me. I wish I could express my gratitude to Mrs. Hope and Sellers whose names I still fondly recall fifty years later.
Education is the foundation of our economic and business development at the lake. Perhaps no single issue impacts commerce more than our workforce development. The strength of our American economy hinges on our public and private school systems as well as post-secondary education and vocational training.
Recently in a Chamber meeting of Corporate CEO’s and entrepreneurs, they pointed to a lack of a skilled workforce as a challenge to their success. They stressed it is critical that we develop our talent and prepare our young people who will soon enter the workforce.
This Thursday, March 16th, the Lake Norman Chamber will have an opportunity to hear from both our current and incoming Charlotte Mecklenburg School Superintendents when we host our Education PowerLuncehon at NorthStone Country Club. It will be an opportunity to thank Dr. Ann Clark for her service as well as welcome new School Board leader Dr. Clayton Wilcox.
The following day, Friday, March 17th, the Chamber will host a Focus Friday with our area Charter and Private Schools at the Chamber. Both events are a chance to hear how our educational leaders are developing our future employees.
This past week we have held School Career Fairs at both Pine Lake Prep (3/7) and Hough High School (3/8). It was a chance for area businesses to meet with students and help them prepare for their vocational future.
Joseph Addison once said, “I consider the human soul without education like marble in a quarry, which shows none of its inherent beauties until the skill of the polisher fetches out the colors and makes the surface shine.”
Looking at those handwritten notes from my teachers brought a bright smile to my face and a little tug on my conscience. We can all mentor a student, provide a business internship, participate in a career fair, and donate to a school fundraiser. That is the responsibility we have to the future and the obligation we all have to the past.
The above column appeared in The Lake Norman Citizen (March 1, 2017 page 39) as Take Time to Mentor a Mind of the Young.
Recently I had the privilege of speaking to students at a local Career Day at Bradley Middle School in Huntersville. One of the questions asked was, “Outside of your family, who had the most impact on you for the career you have today?”
While attending college, I worked at an office furniture and supply store delivering case goods and supplies in Rock Hill, SC. The store, Harper Brothers Office Supplies & Furniture, was managed at the time by one of my father’s closest friends – John Teague. John later went on to be one of the company’s vice presidents. After graduation, I went to work for Harper Brothers as a marketing representative.
I could cite dozens of people who have had a profound impact on my life. That said, perhaps no one person shaped who I became as a sales person more than a working mother of two with a limited resume but a ton of confidence.
She walked into the store one day and admitted, “I don’t have any previous experience. I’ve never sold the first thing but I’ve raised two kids, and a husband.” Then she added, “Give me a chance and watch what I can do.”
Shirley Lineberger is not a name you’ll find in any business books. I doubt she’s taught the first seminar or written a column. Yet, when I think of successful sales people – I think of Shirley.
As an office supply company, some of the industry representatives would place incentives or “spiffs” on selling products. Sell a dozen rolls of tape, you earn an extra silver dollar. At the end of the day, those dollars really added up. I will never forget the afternoon Shirley walked back in the delivery room and split her dollars with the delivery crew. She thanked each of us for the jobs we did, taking care of her customers.
A coffee cup and candy jar we gave customers of Harper Brothers – circa 1985
A few years later, when I had moved from delivery to sales, Shirley took me under her wing and we made calls together. One particular day we planned several calls showing various lines of furniture to prospective customers. The first three of the morning were spent with little results.
I remember feeling a little dejected with no orders in hand. Shirley observed my rejected look and then reminded me, “Cheer up! I normally get one great sale in every five tries. Now that we’ve got those out of the way, we’re gonna’ sell something after lunch,” … and sell we did!
Shirley loved her customers. Filled with confidence and optimism, she taught a young kid to begin each day believing great things were going to happen – and they would.
Love your job, take care of your people, and remember every rejection is just another step closer for you to reach your goal. Treat it as an opportunity, not a setback. It’s a lesson I learned along the way from a mother of two who understood the most important part of the sale starts with you.
The hustle and bustle of this holiday shopping season reminded me when I was a little boy my Grandmother Feemster used to take me shopping with her. She lived about 15 miles outside of Rock Hill (SC) in what we called “the country.” On Saturday mornings, she would wake me to a bowl of Frosted Flakes cereal and then it was “off to town.” Grandmother enticed me on the excursion with the promise I could pick out a toy, typically a model, I could put together later that day if I joined her.
It seemed I spent five minutes picking out my model and five hours waiting on Grandmother as she went from store to store looking at all the latest women’s fashions. After many hours of looking at garment after garment, Grandmother would take my hand and walk me into the Shoney’s where I always purchased a “Big Boy” hamburger and Grandmother had a salad with French dressing.
We still had two stops left. I was once again treated for my patience with a Vanilla milk shake at the Crown Creamery and Grandmother purchased a Black Cherry ice cream, usually one scoop in a cup. The last stop was at the fabric store just before we left town.
There she would buy patterns, fabrics, zippers, and thread for all the pretty garments she had seen earlier in the day. Granddaddy Feemster was typically off fishing with his buddies on those weekends. So, Grandmamma would serve me up a Turkey TV Dinner for supper which was always my favorite as I watched Mannix on TV.
She in turn would hover over her Singer sewing machine and began re-creating the pretty dresses she had seen earlier in the day. Some she would sell for spending money. Others she made for her daughters – my mother Sarah and Aunt Betty. But rarely, perhaps never, was one of those pretty dresses for herself.
A few night ago, someone asked what was the most memorable Christmas I had as a child? It didn’t take me long to think. When I was 7 or 8, Grandmamma went to town and bought all the grandchildren Christmas Gifts. I don’t recall now what she purchased my cousins Jim or Kim, but when I opened up my box, in it I found a stuffed monkey.
I still remember crying that I wanted what Jim had received. Not some old stuffed monkey! My mama explained that the gift I received was actually more expensive than both of their gifts put together. But she couldn’t stop my tears. Who wanted a dumb stuffed monkey?
Well, my Grandaddy Feemster didn’t tolerate such behavior and he promptly took the monkey, opened up the front door, and tossed it out in the front yard in the dark abyss beyond my sight. I can still remember my shock as I thought about my poor old monkey laying out there in the cold.
I ran outside and rescued him and from that day forward I slept with him until we put aside little boy ways. I still have my old monkey. He’s tattern and torn. One felt hand is missing and an ear’s about chewed off. He’s been ripped and sewed up more times than I can count. He and I have both been through a lot but we’re both still here and my monkey is the only toy I have from my childhood.
Granddaddy Feemster passed away in December of 1988 and we lost Grandmamma in February of 2011. My grandparents were never wealthy people and what little granddaddy had he spent on fishing and drinking – his favorite past times. It was largely grandmamma who worked from the time she rose until the time her head hit her pillow. Her nickname was Miss Tillie from Tillie the Toiler and toil she did.
As I listened to the folks share their Christmas memories the other night, I thought of Grandmamma – Miss Tillie. Everyone in her life came first. What I wouldn’t give to turn back the clock and spend one more afternoon with her. I’d love to be able to buy her one of those pretty dresses or treat her to a Back Cherry Ice Cream – just one scoop.
But I know she’s in heaven with all her brothers and sisters and the man she loved so much – my granddaddy. She’s Walking in the Garden, a song she hummed so often while she sewed, and she’s wearing a pretty dress all her own. A dress woven of love and stitched by the hand of God himself.
Pope John XXII once said, “It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.” A few weeks ago I was invited to speak at the induction of the National Honor Society at Lake Norman Charter School. I spoke to many of the parents there, who beamed at the success of their sons and daughters. Having parents that are involved with their children, serving as mentors, and showering them with love are the greatest gifts you can give a child.
My brother, sister and I had parents who did just that. Father’s Day is a chance to say thank you – thank you for picking me up when I was down. That no matter what crushing blow I felt, I would always get past it.
A dad shakes his head at your mistakes, hoping you learn, as he takes your hand, and pulls you up. He’s there to teach you life’s lessons…and in my case, sometimes over and over again.
I was born and raised in Rock Hill (SC) and my father’s family owned a farm where he still lives. When I was five, my parents purchased me a black and white pony that I appropriately named – “Dynamite.” That little fellow lived up to his billing as he seemed to take great delight in throwing me time and time again. Dad, simply picked me up and put me back on the horse, sternly counseling me, “You have to show him you’re not afraid. You have to show him who’s the real boss.”
Between sniffles I pointed out I was afraid and there was no doubt…he was the real boss. But dad simply sat me back up in the saddle, put the reigns tightly in my little hands and off we went. In truth, just about anywhere that pony really wanted to go which was usually to the barn! Many including mom and Grandmamma Russell were not real happy with dad’s insistence.
Looking back though, I’m not sure who suffered more – my backside or dad’s ears. Mama really took dad to task and to this day, none of us have forgotten those Sunday afternoons with “Billy breaking Dynamite.” “But at the end of the day, it was an important lesson. Life will throw you time and time again, but you have to get back up in the saddle, hold on tight, and ride the rough out of it. It’s okay to be a little afraid but never, ever give up.
Dad was there when I lost my first election running for president of my college fraternity. He shared the first time he too had lost an election, but the next time out, he won his race. He pointed out that in retrospect, he was perhaps a better leader learning from the earlier setback. And once again, he was right.
Dad was there to help with my homework. He tried so hard to help me master the ground ball. He tied my first tie and walked down the aisle with me the first time I said “I do.” Mom and dad both were there to hold me when my world seemed dark and stood on stage years later when the world was so right.
Former North Carolina State Coach Jim Valvano, a life lesson himself, said of his dad, “My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”
And perhaps the greatest gift a child can give to his or her parents is simply to say, “l love you both! Happy Father’s Day, Dad.” And while I’m at it – I love you too mom, both of you!!!
Nearly everyone has experienced “Show and Tell” whether it was when you were a student or perhaps assisting your child or relative with their homework. When I was a student at Finley Road Elementary School in Rock Hill (SC), I was asked to bring something or someone to school that week of significance to me to share with the rest of the class. I have never been accused of being overly humble, even as a child, and I decided the best person to bring to show off – was me!
As the first-born child, my mother Sarah took great pains to detail every significant event of my childhood. My baby book was filled with photos, captions detailing the event, locks of hair, and special cards and mementos I can still recall taking the baby book down from the shelf and stripping many of the photos from the album and creating my own “Show and Tell” project.
That week I shared with my classmates the most significant moments of my life displaying the photos my mother worked so hard to compile. Not satisfied with mom’s captions, I created new explanations for each photo, with my own creative and adventurous story.
Much to my mother’s chagrin, those photos never made their way back to where they belonged, perhaps strewn across the playground some 46 years ago. Needless to say, she wasn’t at all happy with me about that.
On Friday, March the 7th, more than 170 of our Chamber members have the opportunity to “Show and Tell” at the largest business trade show in the Charlotte market. Our Lake Norman Business Expo is designed for businesses to tell their unique stories and showcase their business. If you are an exhibitor, no other venue can give you greater exposure and opportunity than the Expo. If you are not an exhibitor, please come out and see Business at its Best and support the lake’s retail and service businesses.
By the way, my mother has always had the last word on the “Show and Tell” incident. At significant family gatherings, mom has reminded my brother and sister why their baby book was not as detailed as theirs. “It is because how bad your older brother was as a child. You have Billy to blame,” mom constantly reminds them on this and many other countless examples.
I always respond that I was just breaking her in good for my future siblings. While my exercise was not what my teacher had in mind, the Lake Norman Business Expo is our business communities’ moment to shine. I encourage everyone to participate – sharing the event through your social media and word of mouth and I’ll see you at the Expo!
The Lake Norman Chamber Business Expo will take place at the Davidson College Belk Arena 200 Baker Drive in Davidson, NC 28036 on Friday, March 7th 11 am until 5 pm. There is no admission charge and the public is invited.