This was the wakeup call that I never wanted
I was twelve years old when I moved from Detroit to Cookeville, TN in 1979. My father had taken a job there to escape the troubles he saw happening in our home town.
I looked at the move through the eyes of an excited child. This would be an amazing adventure for me and my family.
Turns out that it wasn’t as amazing as I imagined.
On my first day of school in Tennessee, my teacher humiliated me in front of the entire class and then whipped my backside with a paddle. I didn’t do anything to deserve it and my teacher said in private that, “she wanted to teach me how they do things down here.”
When I first moved to Cookeville, I stood out like a sore thumb because I used to wear bell-bottom jeans, concert t-shirts and enjoyed rock music. Strangers would come up to me and say, “You are not from around here, are ya?”
I did make some wonderful friends who I love to this day, but I never felt at home or part of the community. Although I found much love there, I also experienced some extreme hatred. And to this day I still don’t understand it.
When I graduated from High School, my Dad took a job in Knoxville and soon I was headed to go to school at UT. It was a world of difference from my time in Cookeville and some of the best years of my life.
I met my lovely wife at UT. We both graduated and found jobs in Knoxville. Although we loved Knoxville, it still didn’t feel like home.
I had a great job with a local medical device manufacturer and I was moving up the ladder quickly.
A few years back, my parents moved to Memphis for work. We did not have the chance to spend much time with them as I was always busy. My focus was on all things material and my life revolved around it.
When my wife became pregnant in 1996, I still wasn’t ready to grow up. I put myself first more than I should have. A few weeks after my son was born, my parents came to stay for a week. It was such a great time that I am still thankful for today.
As my parents were driving back to Memphis, my Dad told my Mom that he was ready to move back to Knoxville. The next day my Dad wasn’t feeling well and left work at lunchtime. A few hours later he died of a massive brain aneurysm.
It was the wakeup call that I never wanted.
My Dad was an only child and his parents had already passed. At 29 years old, I was the oldest male in my family and felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. Right then and there, I decided to put away my childish ways and take responsibility as an adult.
Although it still hurts to this day, it was the kick in the head I needed to change.
After a few years, we moved to Nashville. I soon fell in love with the city and it’s people. After 20 years, I finally felt like I was “at home” again.
I joined the Young Leaders Council which was designed to prepare young professionals to serve on the boards of local non-profits. My first board was the Green Hills YMCA and I served there for six wonderful years. I still belong to this YMCA today.
Shortly thereafter, I had the opportunity to work for the American Heart Association and thought it would be a great way to honor my father. I spent two years there. With the help of the great people of Rutherford and Wilson county, we were able to raise more than $1 million dollars for heart research and education.
That’s where I got the fire to serve my community that continues to this day.
As a kid, my Dad taught me that I had a responsibility to serve other people to the best of my ability.
It was hard to understand as a teenager, but I still live by that code today.