He didn’t graduate college. He married his high school sweetheart when he was 19 years old. He worked his way up the ladder of a grocery store until he became the manager.
He moved his family around as his company moved him from store to store. Finally he settled in Corinth, Mississippi and lives there to this day. He moved away from Corinth once but after 18 months – and for the sake of his family – he got back there as fast as he could. He took a clerk position in a privately owned store just so he could get his family back to the place where they had thrived before. From that day, until the day he retired, he took charge of the flour aisle – those were the best flour displays you ever saw.
Through the years, he influenced the lives of countless young men who worked part-time in the store – and a few grown men, too. He never ran for office, but he spoke truth into the lives of his fellow community members every day in the flour aisle. He sang in the church choir, and in the community chorus, because he just loved music that much.
He is a guitar player. He picked up his first one when he was a young man and to this day, he’ll pick out a “Chet” tune or two when no one is listening. And, he had a good touch on that thing – if he would have practiced a little more.
One of his employees nicknamed him “Wildman” years ago – mostly because his buttoned-down lifestyle was anything but “wild.” It was an insult and a compliment at the same time. Many in his family still call him that.
He is known by everyone as a fair and decent man. I’ve never known him to say anything that wasn’t true. He loves Ole Miss football, Archie Manning, a good discussion, and Oakland Baptist Church (and would fight you if you said something critical about his pastor).
When he says the blessing before a meal, it can go long and sometimes the food will get a little cold – but when he starts thanking the Lord, he has a hard time finding a place to stop.
As a matter of fact, something about him just makes preachers want to call on him to pray. It’s almost funny how many times he is asked to close out a service. And man, can he pray… and pray… and pray…
What’s his secret? I’ve been studying him most of my life, and here’s what I’ve come up with:
- He loves the Word of God and the God of the Word.
- He never confused his life with his job – he chose his church and his family over his career.
- He doesn’t take himself too seriously – his favorite person to make fun of is himself.
- He stays true to his convictions – even when doing so means making a personal change.
- He makes sure his family knows that his love is not based on their behavior or accomplishment – he loves them the same after a big fail or a big win – always has.
- He loves his wife well and completely enjoys his life with her. The final resting place for those two should have one tombstone that reads, “They Had Fun.”
I could write a book about the grocery man because he’s the greatest man I’ve ever known and still the person I most want to be like.
This week we celebrate his 80 years on the planet. And he deserves every bit of honor a son can give his father.
Happy Birthday, Dad.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.