Tag Archives: character


This definition doesn’t sound very technical, but it communicates: “A first responder is someone who is trained to run toward trouble, not away from it.” Even with sophisticated training, people still have to respond appropriately.

The collapse of a 350 foot section of I-85 in Atlanta could have been tragic. 250,000 cars travel that stretch of highway every day. The billowing dark smoke raging from the fire underneath obscured the vision of startled motorists. Collisions seemed inevitable. Once the roadway began to disintegrate, vehicles could have plunged into the gap. People should have been hurt or killed. No one was.

Atlanta Fire Station #29 is located two blocks from where the calamity occurred. Fire personnel responded immediately to assess the danger. A number of them stood under the bridge to determine the extent of the damage while the fire was still gaining strength. As it was becoming certain that the intense heat would be too much for the concrete and steel structures, fire officials ordered their teams to move away … just in time. No one was hurt, no one was killed.

Above on the interstate, Georgia State troopers and Atlanta police had already halted traffic. Risking their lives as cars and trucks kept coming they prevented any possibility of injury and death by their quick action.

Col. Mark McDonough from the Georgia Department of Public Safety was one of many officials who tried to describe the scene for the public. His first words were directed to the first responders. He thanked law enforcement and fire department personnel and then he looked sky ward and thanked the Lord. No one was hurt, no one was killed.

Atlanta is in a mess and will be for months. A poster I saw months ago had a picture of that same highway crowded with bumper-to-bumper traffic. The heading of the poster read: “Thinking of moving to Atlanta?” At the base was this comment: “We full.”

“Inconvenience” does not begin to describe what life will be like in a city already infamous for its traffic congestion. For small businesses in the affected area, the months ahead can spell doom.

Going forward will define direction … not just alternative routes to travel but the attitude we demonstrate. Adversity reveals character. I would love to think that we would see the best in people when difficulty comes our way. Paul wrote to the Colossians: “Whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Okay, reps. Time to show up.

A Godly Man

Pop died in 1985. At 93, he just wore out. I wish you could have known him. Life wasn’t always fun, but he had fun. In Proverbs 10, we read: “The godly are showered with blessings … we all have happy memories of the godly … the hopes of the godly result in happiness.”

He was godly. He lived through a great deal of pain. His 18 year-old daughter was killed in an automobile accident. His 24 year-old son died from a cerebral hemorrhage. His eldest served in the European Theater where he was wounded in action. His wife wasted away as dementia robbed him of his companion of so many years.

He made a choice along the way. He didn’t allow the circumstances of life determine the condition of his heart. There was a sparkle in his eye and a bounce in his step. His faith was deep and strong. He was a life-long member of one church, sticking with it through thick and thin. He served as a deacon. He sang in the choir. He had an amazing bass voice that could make window panes wiggle. I can’t remember too many Sundays when he wasn’t in church, at home or on the road.

Proverbs 10 also speaks of people with character: “People with integrity have firm footing … the words of the godly are like sterling silver, the godly will never be disturbed, the godly give wise advice, the godly speak words that are helpful.”

Even after he retired, he kept his office downtown in Anniston, Alabama. We would pile into his giant Mercury sedan and ride with him. He said he had business there and he needed to pick up his mail but we soon learned there was something else to his trips to the office.

In the lobby of the building, there was a newspaper stand. It was manned by a old blind man, an African American gentleman who could recognize regulars by their footsteps. If he didn’t know who you were, he would call out to you so he could shake your hand and ask you how your day was going. Pop always stopped to chat, always bought something. These two old guys were friends and had been for years.

Then Pop would head for the elevator. In those days, most elevators were manned by an operator. Inside Pop would find another friend whose skin was also a different color than his. They would tell each other jokes. Pop had huge hands but the elevator guy could match his grip. When Pop told us to shake, our hands would be swallowed by his massive clasp.

I came to realize that Pop was color blind. He was a product of his times but somehow he stepped across lines that in that day were very clear. I remember the signs at water coolers and restrooms. I also learned later that he had served on the school board for many years and had taken risks working for equality in the schools of the area.

Yes, Pop was a lot of fun but he was so much more. At his funeral, the crowd was not made up of just white faces. The godly are indeed showered by blessings.