Russell’s Ramblings

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

My Guiding Light – Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

ChristmasThe Christmas season has always been my favorite part of the year. I cherish time spent with close friends and family and love all of the festivities and holiday decor that it brings. For many of us, this is the time to pause our hectic schedules and remember the true meaning of Christmas, and also reflect upon the past as we look to the future.

The past 11 months have been very challenging for me. I lost my father very suddenly in January. Dad wasn’t just a parent. He was my guiding star, my mentor, my confidant and the person I have strived most to emulate in my professional and civic career. Certainly, my Mom played a critical role in my life raising my brother, sister and me. She purchased most of our clothes if she didn’t make them herself. Then she stitched them back together when we wore them out.

Mom nursed us when we were sick, comforted us when we were in distress, and loved on us even when we were bad. (Okay, mostly it was me who was bad!) And while I love my Mom to the moon and back, I was always a daddy’s boy. I admired how involved he was in our community. As a kid, I was so proud watching him play ball, stand up and give a talk in front of the church, and when called upon – serve as the president or chairman of so many different local civic groups.

Later in life, when I led some of the same organizations that my Father guided in prior years, he counseled me. Perhaps his greatest advice when I was faced with several controversial decisions was, “Do the right thing no matter how unpopular it may be. Don’t make a decision in the moment because you’re going to remember it for a lifetime.” He also shared, “We do not choose when we set an example!”

Dad was never an executive with a chamber of commerce, though he was involved with the Rock Hill Chamber. But he recognized how much I enjoyed civic service and encouraged me to pursue a career in association management. This year marks 27 years at the helm of a chamber of commerce helping businesses grow and prosper while making it a great community to live, work, and play.

The hardest thing this year has been going through the boxes and boxes of personal papers, mementos, pictures, and notes at our family farm. I thought I was a pack rat until I started going through Dad’s closets and storage areas and emptying the attic at his home. Among the many letters and papers I found was a copy of a note he wrote to my brother’s daughter who was joining the church. In the letter he cited two guiding principles he relied on. One was a scripture verse from the New Testament, Matthew 5 Chapter 16; “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”Tree 3

The other was a line from the Jaycee Creed: “Service to humanity is the best work of life.” As I continued to read the letter, tears welled up in my eyes as I could hear his voice. The cadence of his words spoke boldly of his thoughts. The thoughts speaking to intention, and the intentions which were louder than the words. As I set the box of letters aside, I thought about how Dad’s life was a candle which burned brightly against the darkness. Before his flame flickered out too soon at the age of 81, he completed a lifetime of work, and left his community much better than he found it.

It was late as I finished for the night. I walked outside on the back deck and looked up at the twinkling stars.  The moon was full, and I peered across the pasture to the old ragged barn silhouetted against the horizon.

I couldn’t help but think in this Christmas Season what those travelers from the East thought two thousand years ago as they followed their star. Those three wise men who left behind their life and followed the light. The journey they made and the legacy we remember.

As I stood in the crisp country air, I heard the sound of a young calf piercing the darkness and felt a warm rush against the nighttime chill. It was as if my Grandmother was throwing a shawl around my shoulder to keep me warm….as she had many times when I was a child. In that moment, I could feel the love that surrounded me and the lessons that Dad left. Among them,  “It’s not just about the destination we seek but the journey along the way … and the many lives we touch getting there.”

In this holiest of seasons, I wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Bill Russell

December 23, 2019 Posted by | Personal, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Barium Springs – A promise of hope

The article below appears in the August issue of Cornelius Life Magazine.

Isn’t it amazing in this fast paced world of smart phones, laptops, Facebook, and texting, it’s the simplest of things that teach us what’s really important in life. I was reminded of that by a teenager whose words made my heart tremble and brought tears to my eyes.

As the president of the chamber, I am keenly aware that while we are blessed to live in the Lake Norman region, there are still many in our community that need a helping hand. The generosity of our residents is nothing short of spectacular as we give freely of our time, talents and financial resources from Habitat Homes for single parents to Big Day at the Lake.

Mooresville Mayor Miles Atkins with Bill Russell at Barium Springs Luncheon

Mooresville Mayor Miles Atkins with Bill Russell at Barium Springs Luncheon

 

A few weeks ago, I attended a fundraiser for Barium Springs at The Cove Church in Mooresville.  Surrounded by approximately 400 other community and business leaders, we networked and discussed the issues of the day ranging from taxation to tolls waiting on the program to begin.  

Then the lights dimmed and I heard those words, those chilling words which seared into my soul.  I looked into the eyes which stared back into mine and the face of innocence weathered by years of abuse and neglect.  I listened as Barium Springs volunteers and school officials shared their own particular stories. Barium Springs provides an array of services for children, families and individuals throughout our state.  Their main objectives are to provide a safe home through residential homes and foster care; to heal the hurt for children who are troubled, abused or neglected; and to encourage a healthy start through educational and prevention programs.

I grew up with two parents who loved their children.  Mom and dad were both very active in the Rock Hill (SC) community serving in civic organizations like the Jaycees, Kiwanis, United Way, Red Cross and our church.  Dad worked with other kids as a commissioner of Little League Baseball and ironically daddy led an effort to create a Boys Home for kids who found themselves in need of mentoring and guidance.

To this day, when I call my mom she always ends the conversation telling me “I love you.”  And her words still warmly embrace me just as they did in my youth when she tucked me into bed each night.  Those words come harder for dad.  It’s his actions which speak louder than the words as we enjoy a Saturday afternoon football game together or a horseback ride through the woods on our family farm.

I listened that May day as teenagers told their stories of neglect.  Parents who sometimes never got out of bed, their minds and bodies wracked by years of substance abuse, leaving a trail of victims in their wake – among them their children.  Kids that before Barium Springs, never had a bed to sleep in or a pillow to rest their head. 

As I watched a short video, a young man appeared on the screen.  He spoke of the years of abuse at the hands of his father.  But it was the eyes which touched my heart. The pain and anguish that no child should ever have to endure.  Barium Springs has turned his life around and today he is a good student, involved in athletics, with a chance for a scholarship and a bright hope for the future.

 

Cody

Cody

Then he said it, those words which still bring tears to my eyes.  The first time they escaped his lips, I felt my eyes well up and I hoped those at my table wouldn’t see me weep.   At that moment in time, he was not speaking to a camera or the other 400 people in the room.  He was speaking to me when he said, “I want to grow up and be the daddy my father wasn’t.”

No one can undo the hurt or the scars they leave.  Memories may linger, but with a new day comes a promise of hope. The volunteers and contributors to Barium Springs provide that hope through support and unconditional love…and perhaps the chance to be a parent that their mother or father wasn’t.  

ill Russell

Bill Russell is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.  For information about Barium Springs, to set up a tour of their campus, or make a contribution call 704-872-4157 or visit  www.bariumsprings.org.

July 29, 2013 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), Personal, Social Causes | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment