Thursday, December 22, 2011

I Can Still Hear the Bell

Charlie Brown: Isn’t there ANYONE who knows what Christmas is all about?????

Linus: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about……..lights, please……and there were shepherds, abiding in the field keeping watch over their flock by night. And the Angel of the Lord came upon them and said, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy. For unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord’. And there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace, good will toward men.’……That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.”

This has been quite a year. I have traveled all over the United States and Canada. It has been interesting to meet so many different people and see so many different places. I have enjoyed the experience but at the same time, I often get homesick. The “glamour” of travel is not always what it seems to be. Running through airports, driving on unfamiliar interstates in heavy traffic, constantly eating fast food and the list goes on. I have awakened numerous times in the early morning and forgotten where I was at for just a few minutes.

But you know what, overall it has really been a positive experience and I am honestly grateful to have the job. I have met some really nice people. I have met people from all walks of life from the CEO of the company to a guy working in a plant in Savage, Minnesota, to a guy who loads tires in Florida. Not only have I met these people, I feel like I have made some really good friends in the process.

I have traveled to some places that I have really liked. Salt Lake City is really nice. Port St. Lucie, Florida is also a really nice area. If I was not tied to family, friends, and church, I could live in Port St. Lucie. I have been to some really remote areas like Perth, Ontario and Edgefield, South Carolina. I asked a guy at the hotel in Edgefield if they had “wireless internet” service and I’m not sure if he had ever heard of the “internet” at all! But in all my travels, I really believe Dorothy was right, there is no place like home.

The last few years have put things in perspective for me more than they have ever been. It would probably surprise many of you that I have always been a person to pray a lot. But now, it’s more of a priority. Billy Graham has been an inspiration to me for many years and you can listen to hundreds of audio and video clips from archives on his website. He repeats several statements during his sermons that I take more to heart, like; “you have got to come to the cross” and “each one of us will stand ALONE before God and answer for our actions.” I am going to be honest, I have a lot of faith, but standing before God alone knowing that he knows everything I have ever even thought wrong is quite intimidating. He also is firm in stating that a person must acknowledge that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior and he is the only reason we can be forgiven for our sins.

You know, God loves human beings more than people realize. We are held in higher regard than even angels. That is why he sent his son Jesus into the world, to save us from ourselves. I realize that we often do not understand God’s ways. I frequently find myself thinking about the life of Jesus. He was born under very unusual circumstances for that era and there are long periods during his life that we know almost nothing about. We know that he brought a message of forgiveness and peace. We also know that even though he was the Savior, he had a lot of anxiety during the last 24 hours of his life. As the Savior, he knew what he had to do, but he still struggled with what he knew was about to happen. Jesus said “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done”, Luke 22:42. We should all take the time to stop, think, and reflect on the significance of the birth and life of Jesus.

Most of the people that know me are fully aware of how emotional I am. When I am sad, I am anguished. When I am happy, I am elated. When I am mad, do not get within 25 feet of me… a matter of fact, it’s probably best if I cannot visually see you even if you are not the cause of my anger. When I think about Christmas and the birth of Jesus, I am often simply overwhelmed and I don’t even know where it comes from. It’s a feeling of happiness and gratitude that I cannot explain.

I have a nephew who loves the movie the “Polar Express” and I have watched it several times. The premise of the movie is that the little boy does not really believe in Santa Claus but by the end of the movie he has a change of heart. For anyone that does not believe, they cannot hear Santa’s bells. But for everyone that does believe, they hear them perfectly clear. When he gets to the North Pole, Santa ends up picking him to receive the annual "first gift of Christmas". The little boy asks for one of the bells off the sleigh after he begins to actually hear them. The little boy loses the bell from a torn pocket but the next morning, Santa Claus has left him the bell as a Christmas present. The little boy and his sister can hear the bell, but his mother and father cannot. I often wonder if the movie has more meaning to it than the belief of Santa Claus. My favorite part of the movie is the last line…….

“At one time, most of my friends could here the bell, but as years passed it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found at one Christmas she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I have grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.”

As we celebrate another Christmas, I can honestly say that not only can I hear the bell, but it seems to get louder every year. For me, that has nothing to do with gifts, malls, and a red suit, but everything to do with family, friends, and a baby born in a manger in the town of Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago.

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and I hope you find a sense of peace and happiness throughout the holiday season! I hope you also enjoy fond memories of loved ones that have passed away and you are able to make memories of your own that will live on for many years to come. May you all be truly blessed during the Christmas season.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hoping for Brighter Day

I don’t understand what this world is coming to. It breaks my heart on a daily basis to watch the news. What are we becoming as a society?

I knew several years ago that the economy could not keep up the growth rate we had for many years. At some point, there had to be a slow down. But really, this bad? I have seen a real estate industry turned upside down. If your occupation has anything to do with housing, construction, development, or real estate, it is virtually impossible to even make a living. I cannot tell you how many people I know that used to work in housing industry in some capacity that are now doing something completely different. But many of them can’t even find something different. Sanford, NC used to be a thriving example of small town America. There was lots of industry, lots of plants and lots of jobs. If you want to see how different the world we live in now is, next time you ride through Sanford, take notice of how many large commercial buildings are completely vacant.

As an American, I am tired of walking into gas stations, grocery stores, and even church and seeing so much anguish on so many faces. The stress we face as a nation is overwhelming. We all keep hoping for things to turn around, jobs to come back, and the world that we have known for many years to just get back to normal. We seem to be on a never ending cycle of things getting worse by the day. I recently read that John Hammergren, the CEO of McKesson, the largest distributor of both pharmaceuticals and health care I.T. systems made $131 million dollars last year. Now I’m not saying this gentleman is a bad guy. I also don’t think we should start camping out in tents in front of his house. But it is disturbing to think that $131 million dollars is being paid to one person when it could be paying 4,366 people a yearly salary of $30,000. He makes $372,000+ per day if you wanted to know.

I was discussing the situation of America other day with a good friend of mine and he made a great acknowledgment. He said the only reason that the United States is not in an even more critical financial situation than we are, is that most of the rest of the world is in the same situation or worse.

I tell you one significant policy that I cannot understand that has been supported by both parties for many years now…..FREE TRADE. How in the world can America compete with a country that pays there workers $2 an hour or less? I just don’t see how free trade can ever help America. The price we pay for gas has tripled or quadrupled in the last 10 years. I would like to know how many products we EXPORT have tripled or quadrupled in price. My guess is that it would be very few or none, but nothing would be as significant as the oil America buys. We just signed a new free trade agreement with S. Korea. I just don’t see how America can compete in most situations with free trade.

As an American, I am just tired of seeing an entire society working so hard just to get by. I realize there are circumstances when many people live beyond their means, but I really think most people are not doing that anymore because they can’t. I think the fact that we hear more arguing about the situation and not more effort to come up with a solution frustrates me most of all. I don’t think most of America cares who or what party comes up with a solution that helps, we would just want to see something that works.

As many of you know, Uncle Boyd is probably the wisest man on the planet. He was discussing America’s situation with me a while back and he made another excellent point. He said that it seemed to him that for many years in American history, the candidates would fight it out in debates and elections just like they do now. However, when the voting was over and a winner was declared, everyone made more of an effort to focus on the best ways to move forward. Arguments were had, disagreements made, but in the end, compromises allowed for some sort of plan. In today’s world, it seems that compromising for the sake of America is not as important as “making a point”. I bet that if the salaries of our elected officials were based on approval ratings and performance, more decisions would actually be made that were truly in the best interest of the American people.

I often wonder, what is it going to take? How extreme do things need to get before we start to see improvement? It’s sad to know that Americans need jobs so bad and in the midst of our incredible need, we widen “free trade” even more. Wouldn’t it be great to know that multiple industries were going to put forth a considerable effort in the next 10 years to operate in the United States? There is an Industrial Park near where I live that has been in place for 7 or 8 years and has yet to be able to convince ONE company to build a plant. Our area would benefit tremendously if a company would build a plant and provide 300, 400, or 500 jobs.

Despite my frustrations and despite the fact that I see things happening everyday that really make me despondent, I still believe in America. I still think we are the greatest country in the world. But I also know that history has proven as far back as we have records, that no society has been the world “superpower” forever. If we don’t make more of an effort to reestablish some of the values that made us the leader of the free world, I am more concerned about the future of our country than I ever have been. But for now, my optimism remains resilient for America and I just pray that things will start getting better sooner than later.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September 13th

I don’t think we ever stop thinking about or loving people that have passed away before us. I think the pain of losing them subsides over time, but our love for them stays the same.

The last couple of years have been some of the most difficult years that our nation has ever faced. The economy has been terrible, people are struggling just to make ends meet, and we have had multiple devastating weather events all across the country. I watched a lot of TV on September 11th and it is still difficult to imagine that such a tragedy ever happened.

As many of you know, I have been traveling a lot this year with a new job. I am installing a software for Liberty Tire Recycling and I work for Thomas Womble. I have enjoyed getting to see a lot of this great nation we live in. I have been to Salt Lake City, Orlando, Port St. Lucie, Minneapolis, Buffalo, Lockport, Atlanta, Miami, Palm Beach, and multiple cities in between. I have even been into parts of Canada several times. Although I like my job and appreciate the opportunity, it’s still hard to be gone from home so much. Most of you that know my family know that driving to Sanford and leaving Harnett County for much of my life was considered a “trip”.

A lot of people hear about what I’m doing and think that it sounds glamorous and exciting. Well, it is nice getting to travel and see places, but it’s not glamorous unless you are on vacation. My days consist of me being at the plants and helping everyone learn the software. I have been really appreciative as to how nice everyone has been to me. I have truly met some nice people. Sometimes I eat lunch and dinner with people from the plant. But at night, when you are sitting in a strange hotel, in a city you are not familiar with and watching TV by yourself, it becomes a lot less glamorous.

I am a lot more sympathetic now of people that travel a lot in their occupation. You would not believe how much you get homesick and miss seeing everyone on a daily basis. But at the same time, I always remember to count my blessings and be grateful. I often think about what everyone back home is doing, where they are eating that night, and what is going on back home. As ridiculous as this sounds, I go on WRAL almost every day and check the weather for the week. I have no idea why, I just do. If I hear about storms in NC, I will go to WRAL and look at Doppler 5000 to make sure the storms are not where people I care about are located. I know it has been tough for Maria with me being gone so much, especially since we have a dog named “Charlie” that has to go outside 50 times a day! And when I leave, poor little Charlie don’t know if I am going outside for a minute, if I’m going somewhere for a few hours, or if he is not going to see me for 5 days! Its good too that I have a neighbor named "Art" that is retired from the Navy and he guards my house! He and his wife Elaine are also kind enough to take Charlie "out" a lot of times.

Another thing I do a lot while I travel is think about my father. Deddy passed away on September 13th, 2000. He certainly had times in his life when things were difficult, but he always worked hard to overcome any adversities that got in the way. I miss a lot of things about deddy, but the thing I miss the most is just sitting down and talking to him. He just had an easy way of talking about things. I can’t tell you how many times over the last 11 years that I would have given anything to have just asked him for advice. I read a book recently called “Heaven is For Real” about a little boy that died and went to Heaven. He met people in Heaven that he did not know about and had never met in his lifetime. He also explains that he had conversations with Jesus. It is a very compelling book to read. I often wonder what deddy can see or if he can see anything from Heaven. If he can see things, he’ll know that I always behave and Travis never does. He actually got to see that before he passed away. I can remember his voice in my head like it was yesterday. Every time I think he ever called me on the phone he would say, “Robbie, this is your deddy”, like I did not know that immediately.

I had an appendectomy when I was in college. The night before, I had called home and told them I was in pain but I did not feel that bad. So, Mama called me about 50 times and I finally convinced them that I was OK. During the night, I got really sick several times and at the crack of dawn, Mama called me:

Mama: Robbie, how you feel?
Me: Not too good?
Mama: You going to class?
Me: Not today
Mama: OK, I’ll check on you later.

(Then she calls Deddy and 30 seconds later………)

Me: Hello?
Deddy: Robbie, this is your deddy, we’re on the way

Then he hung up. No arguing, no “how do you feel?”, just “We’re on the way”. Its hard to believe that during that time, we never even locked our doors in the dorm. But an hour later, Mama and Deddy walked in without knocking and the story continues. Mama pointed at my roommate Brandon and said, “Bob, LOOK, Brandon’s hair don’t mess up while he sleeps! That is amazing!”…..and deddy said, “Yeah, he’s got that kind of hair…...the kind that grows on a hog's ass!” Then they both proceeded to laugh AT Brandon and not WITH him! But my roommate knew how they were and he just laughed. That evening, I was having my appendix removed.

Deddy had a good nature about him that allowed him to say things to people that would have probably been offensive coming from anyone else. But Deddy was really tender-hearted and he would never want to hurt someone’s feelings and I think everyone knew that. I also know that today a lot of people are thinking about him. Just like clockwork, I have talked to Maria this morning and Jason early today. I know Mama, Travis, his brothers, his Mama, and the rest of our family think about Deddy today. I don’t know if I’ll ever understand why his life had to end the way it did, but you know, there are a lot of people who have passed away early in life. I always remember that Jesus was only in his early 30’s when he died. I don’t think a person’s life is measured by how many years they were here, but what they did in the time they were. As I travel this country from city to city, no matter where I am in this world on September 13th, I will always remember and appreciate everything deddy did for me. I think there are a lot of people that probably feel the same way.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Day is really a good day. It gives us an opportunity to honor a person in our life that has done so much for us. I know how much my father did for me in his life. When deddy passed away, not only did I lose a father, but I lost my most reliable adviser, one of my biggest supporters, a considerable resource for courage, and a person that always had faith in me no matter what.

Deddy always made sure that Travis and I gave thought to our decisions and strongly
encouraged us to choose right from wrong. I always listened to him, but Travis...well, that was often another story! But when we did not make good decisions, he was not afraid to let us know it. He was not a person that would go into a tirade of anger and yelling. But whether he knew he it or not, he could look at you and make you feel so guilty about something that you never wanted to have that feeling again. I have friends that would have never wanted to let MY father down.

To me, deddy had so many attributes I admired that there are too many to name. His family always came first. He liked racing, he enjoyed playing golf, and he would drink a cold beer if he wanted to. But nothing in his life ever was more important to him than his responsibilities as a son, father, or husband. Deddy never missed a ball game because he decided to stay home and drink beer all night. He didn't miss going out to eat with Mama because he decided he wanted to party. He also did not do things begrudgingly that were everyday responsibilities. He did them because he wanted to.

I think deddy's most admirable attribute was the fact that he always felt everyone deserved a chance. He was willing to help people around him anyway he could. He tried to help many of those people multiple times. I can think of several individuals that he gave a lot more chances than I ever would have.

When deddy passed away, many people said to me "if you ever need any help with anything, just let me know". I have learned as time passed that many people say that assuming you will never ask for help. But you know what, I honestly have a lot to be grateful for when it comes to people in my life that I can talk to. Their are several people that I have turned to for advice and suggestions on many occasion. When I think about those individuals, I know that my father would be very appreciative to all of them.

Nobody lives forever. The circle of life is inevitable. However, I do regret that I did not get to spend more years with Deddy. But I'll tell you this, for 27 years of my life, I had the greatest father there ever was, and for that, I am truly grateful.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Easter Everybody

Well, its that time of the year again. Spring is drawing near, the world is turning green, and “The 10 Commandments” will once again come on television. If you are not familiar with the greatest movie of all time, I would encourage you to refer to my previous blog in which I give a “cliff notes” of the movie. Or better yet, sit down and take 5 hours out of your life and watch it!

This Easter, I must admit, I write this with a heavy heart. The devastation of tornados that ripped through North Carolina affected many family and friends of people I know. The considerable damage that was done reminds of just how quick a life can meet very difficult circumstances. My Uncle Jamie and his wife had their home destroyed. The Saint Andrews area of Sanford was absolutely devastated. Lowe’s Home Improvement, which is made out of steel and concrete looked like a tin can that had been torn apart. A horse farm in the Broadway area was forced to euthanize 17 horses. It turned out to be the most destructive system of tornados to ever pass through North Carolina. It causes one to wonder why things like this happen at all.

Traveling quite a bit now, I am alone a lot. Although many of you will be astounded by this, but I spend a lot of time reading and thinking. By the way, I also spend a lot of time going into bars and fighting people that make fun of the way I talk, but that’s a different story. I don’t really spend any time dancing because I can turn that talent on in an instant. I don’t know why things happen such as tornados, hurricanes, tsunami’s, typhoons, floods or other tragic events. But I do think there is a reason. I have no idea what that reason is and I don’t even think Uncle Boyd can explain it. However, I do think that from tragedy often comes prosperity. A devastating event often causes people to appreciate a sense of community a lot more. Anytime something devastating happens, I always think of my family and friends. I think we all do. My Mama will drive me crazy during a storm, or a warning of any kind of difficult weather. She probably called me 100 times over the weekend. She also is a bit crazy under normal circumstances in case some of you don’t know. We can be watching the same TV station, at the same time and her interpretation will be completely different from what is actually being said, and its always more extreme. She will actually hear the weatherman say MY ADDRESS from time to time.

Our TV was out due the storms Saturday and we heard someone on the radio say Lowe’s was destroyed. We could not imagine just how devastating it had been until we saw it ourselves. My mother called me and was crying uncontrollably explaining that Jamie’s home was destroyed and they were not sure if they were OK or not. Maria and I rode over there and we could not get near the home. Fortunately, I saw my cousin and he had talked with his father and they were injured but he thought they were going to be Ok. As we rode around Sanford, the devastation was ominous. Trees had been snapped off like matchsticks through entire neighborhoods, homes had being completely destroyed. Cars were tossed around like toys. It was heartbreaking just to look at. Of course, this story was carried nationwide.

It’s incredible to think of the tragedies that happen from time to time. I don’t understand them at all and I don’t think anyone else does either. But obviously, we are simply not to understand everything. Although as a Christian, I am grateful for what Jesus Christ did for us, I think a lot us wonder why there couldn’t have been a different way. Even Christ himself was in anguish as he prayed to his father about what was to come before he was crucified.

I think about the last several years and have a hard time understanding why some of the atrocities happened at all; the earthquake in Haiti, the Tsunami in Japan, multiple hurricanes, and tornados all over the United States. The entire world is having an economic hardship right now. I don’t know why people should be forced to struggle as much as they have the last few years. Not only is it hard for a lot of people to earn a living, its hard for them to keep their house and often eat. Its also hard when you see good people struggling and bad people doing just fine. I don’t think anyone has a good explanation for a lot of hardships in this world. I am not sure if we’ll ever know. I just finished a book about Job and the horrific trials he went through. But Job was not only restored, he was restored with even more than he had before his struggles. But the Lord never did explain to Job what happened. Nor did he commend him for remaining loyal. I do wonder that when Job died, if the Lord explained to him what had really happened.

It’s always difficult to leave home as I travel. I’m not used to being away from home so much. But as circumstances change, so do our responsibilities. But I have a lot to be grateful for and I know it. I am so fortunate and grateful to have grown up with two great parents and a loving family. I am grateful that I grew up in the area I did where people are so willing to help each other. It is wonderful to know that I live in an area that when hardships occur, the community is there to help. When deddy was battling cancer, it was amazing how many cards and letters he received. When he passed away, we had so much food brought to our house there was no way we could have ever ate it all and we tried to make everybody that came to visit eat something. I feel honored to live in an area where people are so willing to be supportive of others during difficult times.

This Easter, I hope that you are all able to have some quality time with your family and friends. I hope that you are able to have some time to appreciate what you do have. I realize that a lot of you may be going through some challenging circumstances, but I encourage you to retain hope. But we all should be realistic. Challenges, as well as obstacles in life are not often overcome quickly. Time gives us reason to believe that there will be a better day. I wish all of you a Happy Easter!