• 57°

The life-changing people we meet

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been thinking of writing on this subject for several weeks. It must be due in part to the stage of life I find myself. I have been reflecting on the many people, outside my family, I’ve met in my life and whose lessons continue to impact me today. Life’s lessons that I will never forget.

My childhood Sunday school teacher, George Norman, would rank among the first on this list. George taught intermediate boys, ages 11-14, for many years. He taught us to study our Sunday school lesson, read the scripture, and complete our tithe envelope.

The lesson having the greatest impact on me occurred between 1962-63 when the United States Supreme Court ruled there could be no prayer in public schools. George’s reaction to this ruling was that no one could ever take away our right to pray anywhere at any time we chose. As an example, he told us when we faced tests and wanted to pray, all we had to do was pray; he quickly added that if we’d not studied, we need not pray.

When I became an 11-year-old newspaper carrier, I met Harry  and Cary Reeves, who were in management at my hometown newspaper. After assigning me my neighborhood delivery route, they offered me valuable lessons about customer service and general business that I continue to use today.

They shared their values and offered me life direction, wanting to guide me along me on the straight and narrow. They were very interested in how I conducted myself as an individual and student. I knew I could count on these two brothers for sound advice, positive guidance and friendship.

One of the items they stressed I keep good records and update my route book on a weekly basis. In this book were the names, addresses and payment history of subscribers. They told me that managing that book correctly would determine my profit. (I wish now that I had kept one of those books).

They stressed responsibility, timely delivery, consistent collections, customer courtesy and building relationships with the families on my route. Because they chose to love me along the way, we developed a bond exceeding their business roles as my bosses.

Along the way, I don’t think I ever experienced a bad teacher although I was not always the best student in the classroom. In junior high school, I decided to “go my own direction,” losing interest in school until an abrupt conversation with my principal, Margie West. 

Mrs. West asked me what I thought I wanted to do with my life. Pretty big question for a kid in junior high School. She reminded me that I had capabilities that I’d chosen not to use. She asked me to decide which direction I wanted to travel, success or mediocrity. She reminded me I could be an achiever, but only I could decide, and my actions and participation in class indicated I didn’t really care.

I didn’t realize it at the time but my life was at a crossroads. Because she recognized that crossroad and cared enough to share her thoughts with me, I am certain that my turnaround began that day.

Among my best friends is 91-year-old  Harold Storey. I met Harold in Rome, Ga., in 1998. This incredible and highly decorated World War II veteran is one of the most humble men I know. Why he chose his local newspaper publisher as a personal project I will never know. That he decided I needed a friend to drop my office and ask if “my smile was a smile or a frown,” I don’t know, but I am very thankful that he did.

It must have been divine intervention as I have benefited greatly from his wisdom. I’ve not been the same since meeting him!

Harold’s personal lessons have taught me more about how to love and how to forgive than any other person I have ever known. He believes that we should love as CHRIST loved, not be condemning or judgmental – simply loving people as they are and not as we think they should be. Harold believes that when we reflect CHRIST and his love we don’t have the capacity, or need, to do more.

So I ask each of you reading this today … whose names would you place on this list?

I also ask myself are my actions providing the same type impact as George Norman, Harry and  Cary Reeves, Margie West and  Harold Storey.

Otis Raybon is the publisher of The Daily Leader. Contact him at otis.raybon@dailyleader.com or (601) 833-6961.