Relationships

building20relationshipsI wish I had known my father better. He was a quiet, understated man, who had many faithful friends. I actually think my three children had a more intimate connection with him than I did. That’s a gift grandparents bring to the table. They have the luxury of simply being with children, being present with children, wasting time with children. So, I missed out on realizing what it meant to be a close friend of Milton S. Beavers. Aka Bevo Beavers.

At least until the last three months of his life—while he was dying with lung cancer and I was wondering about the next chapter in my life. He died on June 7, 1988—the month that I became a Sales Coordinator with the Juice Plus+ Company.

During those three months we took walks together, we talked about my mother who had died when I was fourteen. Something we had never done. I discovered why so many people loved him.

I realize today that he modeled for me what I call “leadership without words.” He modeled persistence and focused work. He started his own furniture business during the Great Depression by selling his own, using that money to buy more used furniture, marking it up and selling it again for a profit.  By the time I showed up, he had an amazing and successful furniture business known throughout Atlanta.

He was fair and honest. He under-promised and over-delivered. He embraced and solved problems instead of minimizing or running from them. It took me a while, but I finally got that one down.

On the day of his funeral, I found myself in a deep quandary. I couldn’t get a police escort to lead the family and friends from the funeral home to the cemetery. Red tape was the problem. In a panic, I started calling nearby precincts without a shred of success.  I dialed up the downtown Atlanta Police Department, listened to a dozen lame excuses and finally got to talk with a Captain Jensen.

“What’s your problem son?” he blurted over the noise in the background.

“I’m at the Roswell Funeral Home, and we need a police escort to Arlington Cemetery in Sandy Springs.”

More static. Jensen mumbling. Me shouting like a Pentecostal preacher.

“Whose funeral are we talking about?” said the Captain.

“M.S. Beavers. Milton Stringer Beavers,” I said, struggling to admit that my father was gone.

Then, a miracle occurred.

In a clear voice, Captain Jensen asked, “Is that the Beavers who owned the furniture store?”

“Yes! Yes! That’s him!”

“I’ll be damned. Son, I’ve known your father for 40 years. Helluva man. When I was a rookie, my beat was on Marietta Street in Five Points. Don’t you worry about a thing. I’ll take care of this. And, tell your mother we’re real sorry.” And, we hung up.

Fifteen minutes later, like magic, two motorcycles roared up to the front of the funeral home while we sang How Great Thou Art.  My father did that. He made that happen. Because of who he was and how he treated people.

How simple, but profound can it get? The quality of our relationships will determine the quality of our lives.

Once again, my father was teaching me—without words—that if I can have relationships like he did, I could build a business. I could build a life.