As you enter the RSA building from the art gallery side on Madison Avenue in downtown Montgomery, you will notice a sculpture. At least I have noticed it time after time. It is a sculpture of turtles doing what I believe turtles cannot do – reaching heights that are far beyond them.
Each time I walk by that sculpture, I think of my life. Not because I have done so much or that I think so highly of myself. Instead, I focus on the turtles that make up the base and the ones who make up the ladder that allows that final turtle to end up on a fence post. If I reflect too long, I can be moved to tears. My base is filled with people who loved me, and for reasons beyond my comprehension, they invested in my life. I know in my heart of hearts that were it not for them, the best I could have accomplished was sunning myself on a rock somewhere.
My pastor once preached a sermon titled “Retroactive Love.” Throughout this sermon, he continued to give examples of individuals who went back or returned to show their appreciation.
Much like the turtle sculpture, I am reminded of the various events in my life that allowed even the faintest ray of sunshine to hit my head. This article is a tribute to these persons. Many of them may not even remember me, but there are visages of their contribution within me.
“Somebody prayed for me. Had me on their mind, took the time and prayed for me. I’m so glad they did. I’m so glad they did, took the time and prayed for me.”
Those are the lyrics to an old song, but in my life that individual was my grandmother. At the time I thought she was wasting her time. I wanted nothing to do with becoming a Christian. It wasn’t until later in my life when God added the increase to seeds she and others planted in my heart that I realized just how wonderful a relationship with God could be. To borrow a quote from Robert Frost, “That has made all the difference.”
My parents were awesome in how they role modeled hard work and sacrifice. As a child, I never knew their checking account balance but I always felt rich. The environment they created was one of accountability and discipline. They were firm, fair and consistent. Peer pressure never stood a chance with me, because I always knew who loved me and who was bringing home the bacon. Often that bacon took the form of a Whopper or the latest style of sneakers.
During my dad’s numerous army deployments, coaches and uncles filled the void he left; men who cared about me and always gave me sound advice. They said what he would have said and did what he would have done. What dad could have done alone, they did cumulatively. If I needed a heavy hand, they had it, but often they were able to use wind sprints and playing time to get me to comply. I would have not earned nor maintained a college scholarship without them.
I had male teachers when I was in the third and sixth grade. Perhaps that is not such a big deal now, but it was then. Mr. Jones read to our class a lot. Other then that, I don’t recall much, but I do remember thinking that if they could be teachers, perhaps one day I could as well. They opened my mind up to possibilities.
Roy Smith, Charlie Boman and Roy Moore believed in me when others did not. I recalled Roy Smith sitting in the governor’s office and telling him that I could be governor some day. I thought it was a hyperbole at the time (and still do, to be honest), but to hear a friend go to bat for me in such a way made me want to do well. Every political appointment originated with their efforts. I tried hard because I didn’t want to disappoint the people who had faith in me.
Last but not least is my family. Being a husband and a dad is perhaps the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I truly feel like I am on the Potter’s Wheel at all times. I believe that God uses each and every situation with my family to teach me deeper lessons about myself and about Him. In the end, He uses them to help me be the best version of myself. Just like the turtles in that sculpture in Montgomery, all of the above people and many more unmentioned friends are the wind beneath my wings. I thank you all.