I’m sure that most of you have heard the quote from Mrs. Clinton when she was first lady that “It takes a village” to raise a child. My reaction was: No it doesn’t. It takes a family but we had an experience recently that got me thinking about this quote again.
Every Tuesday we host dinner for the Dalton High School football defensive linemen. (And, man, can those boys eat. Don’t need to worry about leftovers.) Last Tuesday, they were eating and laughing and obviously having a great time being with their teammates. As they were leaving, we noticed something that got both of our attention. Every one of them came up to us to personally say thank you. In addition, they were parked in front of the house and around the corner and yet no one walked on the grass. I know this might seem like a small courtesy but it spoke volumes to us. These young men are courteous and respectful.
It is my sense that we are not born courteous and respectful of other, in fact probably the opposite. Early in our lives we’re taught these virtues by our parents but as we grow older, it is reinforced by any number of others that touch our lives. In the case of these young men, they have their coaches and in most case mentors that teach and reinforce respect for the team, for coaches, for their parents and, yes, for themselves. (And of course teachers and religious leaders to name a few more.)
As I was preparing this column I was flooded with flashbacks — remembering the men that had significant impacts on my life and character. At the time some of them seemed small but in retrospect taught me value lessons.
Take for example, Mr. Marsh, who supervised the public parks’ tennis center in Indianapolis. He was an older gentlemen and obviously long ago retired. I got to know him quite well since I was there everyday during the summer working on my game. He knew that I came from a very poor family and noticed that the holes in my tennis shoes were patched with tape. There was a small pro shop there that sold shoes. When men would buy new shoes and throw away shoes that still have some life in them, he would retrieve them from the trash for me. Thank you, Mr. Marsh.
At that same tennis center, there was a teaching pro that took an interest in me and on numerous occasions would walk onto the courts to help me with my game. He never asked for anything in exchange. Thank you, Coach Shumacker.
I remember my scoutmaster. He was a man in 40s with two small children both under 5 years of age but he found time to devote to his scouts. He taught me another kind of respect — respect for the work ethic. He taught me that taking the easy path wasn’t taking the best path. Thank you, Joe, for helping me make Eagle Scout. I couldn’t have done it without you.
I remember my college tennis coach, Brother Emmitt. On the outside he was a grumpy “old” man but on the inside he had a heart of gold. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for his team. We were his family. I remember a few years ago, Mary and I were in South Bend, Ind., for a wedding and we took the opportunity to visit Brother Emmitt in the retirement home at Notre Dame. When he saw me, the first thing he said was, “Well you’re the last one I expected to see here.” And with a tear in his eye gave me the biggest hug. Not long after he passed on.
There were other men that taught me respect and so much more about life, too many to mention them all here. I’m honored to have known them and I’m profoundly sad. I’m sad that they all have passed. I’m sad that I didn’t say thank you to each and every one of the before they passed. I hope they will hear me now.
Werner and Mary Braun live in Dalton. He is the retired president of the Dalton-based Carpet and Rug Institute.