Do you remember your first full-time job? I’m not referring to the summer jobs you had in high school or college to make a few extra bucks, but the type of employment that you now look back on — 20, 30 or more years later — as providing your initial paycheck in the professional world.
In 1982, I got my first teaching job at Norcross High School in the Gwinnett County Public Schools system. I taught business classes and coached two sports, football and wrestling. I had some football coaching experience with the freshman team at the University of Georgia and the Gainesville High School Red Elephants, but wrestling was new to me. The only images in my mind about wrestling came from TV, with Rick Flair jumping off the ropes or Hulk Hogan body-slamming some guy.
I stayed at Norcross High School for two years before moving on to Georgia Southern University to coach with Erk Russell. After three years there, I went into business with my brother Eddie. We have been together for the past 35 years at the Tidewater Group in Savannah, Georgia.
I’ll ask the opening question in a different way. Do you remember the person who first gave you a break, and to whom you owe everything for taking a chance on you? I do.
His name is Jerry Raines. Jerry was the head football coach and athletic director who hired me at Norcross High School. His wife is Charlotte, and they have three children. They took me into their home and let me stay with them for a few months. He became like a father to me and was a mentor because my experience in teaching and coaching was so limited then. He spent time with me, explaining the cost of every decision I made as a professional and a young man. At age 22, in Atlanta, you could get into a lot of different situations you never studied or dreamed about with just a few bucks.
I’m sharing this story because Coach Raines recently passed away and will be buried this Saturday, Feb. 5, at Lakeside Baptist Church in Milledgeville, Georgia. He and I had a lot in common, even with the age difference. Jerry also lost a child not too long ago. We shared our thoughts about this and how it impacted our lives and those around us. We often would laugh about the many mistakes I made as a teacher and coach while he kept chipping away with me.
Will one person, or maybe many people, remember you as being the one who gave them an important break in life? Will they remember you as the one who went way beyond being just a boss or an owner? Will they remember you as the one who gave the shirt off your back to help give a brighter future to them and their family?
With time, I learned Jerry’s lessons well. There is indeed a cost to every decision we make, and it impacts us and others in the present time and well into the future. When you pass on from this life, will there be anyone to celebrate your life and the people you touched?
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