Saturday, September 7, 2013

Lessons Learned from the Lumberyard

When I was 13 years old, I started working at Elliott Gin & Lumber Company. The company had been in my family for years, originating as a Cotton Gin and then later becoming a hardware store. I worked 50- hour work-weeks during the summer as the “Executive Granddaughter” whose primary responsibilities included organizing the nail bins, picking up lunch and accompanying my grandfather (PaPa) on site visits (which was basically riding around in the pick-up truck and stopping for snacks along the way).

I initially started working because I wanted to make money to buy “necessities” that my mom wouldn’t buy me, like a zebra print high-heel shoe chair for my room (which took 4 week’s worth of pay to buy). After working there every summer and throughout college, I started to realize that I was learning more than just how to mix paint and drive a fork-lift; I learned about life, faith, happiness and love.

To this day, PaPa is the greatest man that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He was strong as an ox but gentle as a lamb. He was a boxer in the Army, and a story was often told about when he was getting vaccinated for the Army, his muscles flexed so badly that he actually bent the needle. His loves were God, Billy Graham, family and cornbread (in that order). His hands were callused and bruised from years of working in the cotton gin but he used those same hands to thank God for his blessings and to give the best bear hugs.

PaPa taught me about the difference between a roofing tack and a cement coated sinker nail. He taught me to treat everyone the same no matter what the color of their skin, their religion, their income or their past. He taught me that if you can’t buy it with cash then you don’t need to buy it. He believed that a handshake was a commitment, and he always honored his commitments. He taught me that only “hussies” wear red finger-nail polish (and to this day, I can’t bring myself to wear red polish on my nails). He taught me that a lady should have a Bible and .38 revolver nearby at all times (he lovingly referred to my .38 as “Bully”). PaPa believed in the value of hard work and worked until the day he passed away at 84 years old.

Because of the values my grandfather instilled in me, I have never given up on anything. There have been times where I have had to fight for my beliefs, my marriage and for my family. There have been times where I want to give up and give in, but I know that my PaPa would tell me “you can do this and you will do this” followed by a huge hug. PaPa believed in me more than I have ever believed in myself, and that is what keeps me going when times get tough.

This year, my husband and I will welcome a little baby boy into the world and he will be named after my grandfather, McSwaine (Mac) Elliott. He will have big shoes to fill and even bigger stories that he will need to tell about his great-grandfather, but I know that because of what my PaPa taught me during the hot summers in the lumber yard, baby Mac will have the same love for God, loyalty to family and love for others as PaPa did.

And from what the nurses have told us about the size of baby Mac on the ultrasound, it looks like he will have the same love for cornbread as his PaPa :)

This Grandparents Day on Sunday, September 8, take the time to thank your grandparents and reflect on the life lessons they have instilled in you. 

By Sarah Kershner, Project Coordinator, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

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