Monday, August 22, 2011

Lesson of the Day: Mr. Charlie Taught Us to "By-Grab-It!"

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Have you ever had a week of days where it's a victory just to get through each day? Last week was just that...No one who works in healthcare can consistently feel compassionate, patient and giving all the time.

During those hard-to-take moments, when we really wish we could go home, take a walk, eat a pint of sorbet or just take a nap, all we can do is


Do any of you know what that means?  I tried to define it on Google, and all I come up with is a description of some new technology. My family members know what it means.  Whoa, do we know what it means!

A crusty, old WWII vet tobacco farmer in my home state introduced this word to my 6 siblings and me; he turned out to be one of our greatest life-lesson teachers.


Mr. Charlie was the sole survivor of his company during the Battle of Normandy, shot full of shrapnel. In what we thought (in our youth) was a ripe old age, he stood 5'2" tops in his bib overalls and  flannel shirt. And he moved faster than most men a quarter of his age.

The man was a machine!

If you needed something done, Mr. Charlie had it done before you could blink. He finished his tobacco harvest long before all the other farmers and headed out to help his neighbors.

We were lucky recipients of his time and wisdom, though, at the time, we didn't necessarily see it as such!  You see, he always seemed to show up late in the evening, 10 or 15 minutes before it was quittin' time. Right before we planned to head in to the house to finish homework.

The dogs would begin to bark. The slice of headlights would light the starry sky in the otherwise black night. His truck tires would crunch down the snow-covered, quarter-mile lane.

Mr. Charlie would hop out of his truck as if he had downed a double espresso. The door to the stripping room would fly open. Now, what do you think that means?  Sound naughty?  Well, it's just the place tobacco farmers call the place they remove the leaves from the tobacco stalks.

We'd turn to greet him as we stood in line at a long table covered with tobacco plants, stripping cured tobacco leaves off the stalk, grading and separating them by quality.

"Well, Byyyyy-Grab!" he'd exclaim, closing the door. His weathered and whiskered face taking in the sight of us. His wide smile revealed shiny, pink gums. Not one tooth. "It's a good night for strippin' some tabaccer!"

Inside, we would groan, knowing it would now be at least another hour, or two, until we'd feel the warmth of the house and be able to sit down to finish our homework.

What's with the "by grab?" we'd ask each other early on. We never asked, and he never told.

But...what happened over time is that it became a verb.
verb \bi-'grab-it\  sink your heels in and don't look back. Just get 'er done. As in, "You're just going to have to by-grab-it. Tough it out!"

Then, it morphed into an adjective.
adjective \bi-'grab-it\  an attribute characterizing perseverance, strength, initiation and reliability all rolled into one. As in, "He's a real by-grab-it kind of guy. He gets the job done!"

Today, 9 years ago, Mr. Charlie left this earth. When I attended his funeral, I was struck by the impact this sprite, tough, little man had on our lives. He still comes up frequently in conversation and so does his life lesson.

Mr. Charlie taught us how to keep on going, even when you want to quit:

Continue to put one foot in front of the other, even on the worst of days...

Keep moving...

Keep your head up...

Look only to the next step so you're not overwhelmed...

Keep going until you're DONE.

Nike said, "just do it!" Mr. Charlie said it even better.

Every day last week, that seemed to last 120 hours each, when fatigue and impatience were itching my skin, I thought about Mr. Charlie.

I sunk my heels in...
....and just By-Grabbed-It.

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