Today, I’m flying from San Francisco, California to Bentonville, Arkansas. These two cities have very little in common and, one might add, are in different universes. Ironically, it is a nonstop flight!
As a southern humorist and presenter, I can automatically dial my southernness up or down. Let me explain… In San Francisco in front of college administrators, I needed to be a sophisticated southerner, such that my accent is more of a minor liability than an asset—what you might call a toned-down, highly-educated story weaver and an entertaining trainer and speaker (an acquired taste that requires some time to gain the audience’s trust). Speaking in Bentonville for Wal-Mart, I can let my southern hair down a bit and use my dialect as a bond between me and my audience.
Oh, please don’t misunderstand—this slight shift of less or more southernness is not a request made by my clients. It’s more of a gauge of tolerances. Having a southern accent and being from the south is one of the biggest blessings of my life. People hear me and immediately expect my presentations to be light-hearted and insightful. While we are on the subject, please don’t confuse comedians with humorists. Comedians help us escape pain through laughter; humorists are storytellers who connect with the humanity in us by making us laugh! As Woody Allen put it, “Comedy is tragedy plus time.” I say, “Humor is life plus reflection!” Its a small nuance, yes; but it is huge to the overall effect on retaining content. It’s a lot like a story my good friend, Dr. Greg Little, sent me, and a good example of the point I’m trying to make:
A southerner had a problem, and the only way to solve it was to get a loan.
So, he walked into a bank in New York City and asked for the loan officer. He told the loan officer that he was going to Paris (France, not Tennessee) for a festival for two weeks and needed to borrow $5,000, and that he was not a depositor of the bank.
The bank officer told him that the bank would need some form of security for the loan, so the he handed over the keys to his brand new F350 Ford 4×4 pick up truck. The vehicle was parked on the street in front of the bank. He produced the title where he had purchased the truck with a new custom paint job, and everything checked out. The loan officer agreed to hold the truck as collateral for the loan and apologized for having to charge 12% interest.
Later, the bank’s president and its officers all enjoyed a good laugh at the man’s inexperience in using a $120,000 custom truck as collateral for a $5,000 loan. An employee of the bank then drove the truck into the bank’s private secure underground garage and parked it.
Two weeks later, the man returned, repaid the $5,000 loan and the interest of $23.07. The loan officer said, “Sir, we are very happy to have had your business, and this transaction has worked out very nicely, but we are a little puzzled. While you were away, we checked you out on Dunn & Bradstreet and found that you have a PhD from Southern Mississippi. You are a highly sophisticated investor and have multi-million dollar interests in real estate and financial holdings all over the south. What confuses us is why would you bother to borrow $5,000 from our bank?”
The southerner replied, “Where else in New York City can I find a guarded and gated parking space for my truck for two weeks for only $23.07?”
It’s just a simple story that tends to imply intelligence is directional!
Here is the rub:
Judge people by who they are, not by who you think they are or where they are from.
Value everyone and celebrate their differences. No culture has ever survived by being a single-note symphony.
Never stop giving people a hand-up. Hand-outs make them dependent upon you.
Don’t just walk a mile in someone’s shoes, go the extra mile barefoot!
Every child—not just yours—watches what you do and says what you say. Be an example, not an excuse.
Our beautiful language is full of remarkable words. Don’t just use the ones that have four letters.
Appreciate those around you and acknowledge their gifts.
Michelle and Nick, you are pure southern geniuses and I am proud to work with you everyday. They make me look good and are more southern than I am (geographically)!
Love those who have given you their love.
A list way too large to number, but here is my inter circle:
Debra, my starter wife, child bride, and the love of my life for the last 48 years.
My daughters, LeAnne and Lauren, who are my precious angels.
My gifted grandchildren by age: Kayleigh, Bartleby, Sebastian, Teagan, Perry, and AJ, my smallest princess.
The men in my daughters’ lives: Dr. Keith and Dalton.
As I look out the window of the plane that I am riding in, I realize that it is the wings that are keeping me here at 37000 feet. It doesn’t matter where they were made or who attached them or what their politics were; they do so, because they provide lift. Lift those around you. Keep them flying high. And while I’m at it, bless your heart, y’all!