Wednesday nights I often listen to a show called “The Moth Radio Hour” that features story tellers (I have been trying to learn to come out of shell as a public speaker).
On a recent episode, Les Strayhorn told a story regarding going to school in North Carolina as a black man during integration in the 1960’s. I listened intently; I have some friends who went through the same experience.
He shared that his father, a farmer, had volunteered him to be one of the first students to get on the bus to make the 5 mile trip to the new integrated school. The bus driver set him and his cousins on the front seat “to cut down on trouble.” In spite of this, he was constantly harassed, especially by a certain fellow. The fellow used foul language and threatened him physically.
Les spoke to his father about the options for dealing with the bully, including fighting. His father stressed that as one of the first black students at the school, he needed to set the example, and getting kicked out of school for fighting was not an option. His father told him to pray and an answer would come.
When Les learned that the other fellow was going to try out for football, an idea came to him: he would try out for football and take his frustrations out on the field.
Sure enough, the two met often on the field during practice as Les, an offensive lineman, maneuvered himself to confront the bully, a defensive lineman. After a few weeks, the bully quit the team, and Les was ready to do so as well since he had completed his mission. When the coach learned he was quitting, he told Les he could not quit because with his talent, he could play in college (and get off the farm). Les continued to play through high school, then college, then in the NFL as a running back for the Dallas Cowboys and other teams.
Later in life after retirement, Les thought about his father’s guidance and the young fellow who challenged him. He realized that without the challenge of the bully, and trying to find a way to deal with it, he would likely not have played football, and thus the rest of a successful career would not have occurred.
Each day we are challenged. Some days the challenges rise to frustrations or even anger. Often when we get to the other side of a challenge, we see that it was the challenge and how we reacted that led to our growth – both as a person and as part of a business like Powell Valley National Bank.
Embracing challenges and change make us all stronger – as people and as a Bank.
“Letters From Leton” is a blog series comprised of the weekly updates that Leton Harding – President, Chairman, and CEO of Powell Valley National Bank, shares with the Bank’s team members. These newsletters are full of uplifting anecdotes and intriguing insights that are applicable beyond the Bank, so we want to share them with you.