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RISK ROUNDUP—It’s February, the “Love Month,” and we have a post for you that includes a lot of love and a lot of heart—two of Valentine’s Day’s traditional themes.
Yes, we are an Independent Risk Management Firm, but we don’t always talk about what we do. Sometimes it’s fun to share some “behind-the-scenes” stories and holiday-themed posts.
So, for our “February LOVE Story,” we requested a special message from one of our Risk Managers—who also happens to be a minister. (He has a couple of other side jobs, too, but we’ll get to those later.)
Walter “Wally” Haney, Jr., is the President and Chief Financial Officer for American Risk Managers. He celebrated his 33rd year as a Risk Manager last October—an anniversary he almost missed due to a major heart attack eight years ago.
“I had a ‘widow-maker’ heart attack,” he explained. “It gets its name because around 92-93% of the men that have them die during the process. And the 7-8% that live usually have extensive damage to their hearts, because the severe blockages create other problems.”
But Mr. Wally received a different diagnosis from the Lord. “I woke up the day after my heart attack and heard the Lord say, “I am going to heal you 100%.”
He also got a warning from God a few minutes before his heart attack, which saved his life. And that wasn’t the only miracle to happen before, during and after his “heartfelt” incident.
“It’s almost like a coincidence—if there were coincidences,” he said. “But there are no such things as coincidences. It’s all in the plan of the Lord.”
Mr. Wally is convinced that he would have died if he hadn’t lost 60 pounds in the eight months prior to his heart attack. He had started a new diet, similar to the Mediterranean Diet, after a trip to Key West and seeing himself in the post-trip photos. (Perhaps the first Miracle?)
“I looked like a Roly-Poly,” he said. “If I’d gone to New York, they’d have wanted to tie some tethers on me to keep me from floating off.”
Another miraculous life-saving element was the fact that Mr. Wally’s wife happened to be home that day, when she’d had plans to be gone. (Second Miracle.)
“Tonya was instrumental in saving my life on Saturday, August the 21st, which is also her birthday,” he said. “I would have died on our back porch, if she hadn’t been there.”
Mr. Wally had come up to his porch to cool down after burning some brush and limbs in his goat pasture. (Goat pasture? Let’s back up a little bit to learn about one of his side jobs.)
“Around 2004,” he explained, “the Lord said to me, ‘You need to move out to the country and raise goats. Go raise goats.'”
His reply was “I don’t know anything about goats. I don’t know anything about living out in the country. This doesn’t make sense.”
Mr. Wally said the Lord explained to him quite clearly that twice as many people can be fed on goats than on cattle.
“And although people in the United States consume more cattle than goats, the rest of the world prefers goat meat,” he said. “That’s probably because you can raise more goats per acre than cattle. The Lord was telling me to get ready for hard times.”
A Large Part Of Mr. Wally’s Goat Herd Can Be Seen In This Photo From 2018 When He Had 20 Goats. His Largest Herd Numbered 46.
Before his heart attack, Mr. Wally was working on his goat pasture near his first goats—four young females—that he’d just purchased the previous month.
A sweltering hot day (temperatures already hitting 100 degrees at 10 a.m.) was made even hotter, as he was swinging a machete and piling limbs on a fire. After nearly half an hour, he figured he’d better take a break or he’d get too hot.
“I was in pretty good shape, but I wasn’t in that good of shape,” he said. “It was just an overload.”
When Mr. Wally first sat down, he felt overheated and moved to another chair on the porch. Then he felt a little acid indigestion and moved again.
“I didn’t feel good and after I moved again, I really started not feeling good,” he said. “Then I started getting sick at my stomach and my chest started to tighten up a little bit.”
Ms. Tonya noticed her husband’s discomfort and asked if he was alright. He replied that he just didn’t feel good and may have gotten too hot.
But he was beginning to feel unsure and extremely restless, moving chair to chair. And he was remembering a friend’s father who’d felt bad and went inside to lay down, had a heart attack, and never got back up.
“At first, I’d wanted to go inside and lay down on the couch, but I remembered about my friend’s dad and I heard a voice say, ‘If you go inside, you will die.’ And so, I thought, ‘I am not going inside.'” (That still small voice was the Lord’s warning mentioned previously. Miracle.)
Mr. Wally said he moved one more time and then felt like somebody had put a vice around his chest and started cranking it. “And the vice started to tighten down and tighten down,” he said.
Ms. Tonya again asked her husband if he was okay. But this time, his answer was he didn’t know and his chest was hurting a little bit. Upon hearing this, she went inside and came back with an aspirin and a glass of water. (That aspirin goes on the list of life-saving measures—one of the many miracles.)
Pain was his next symptom. “When the vice started to crank down, that’s when it really started hurting,” he said. And that’s when Ms. Tonya—who was not supposed to be home, remember—told him not to get up while she went inside and called 911. (Another miracle.)
“Of course, when the paramedics got there, they loaded me up in the ambulance and took me to the Emergency Room,” he said. “I coded the first time between there and the hospital, although they didn’t tell me that until three weeks later. Until then, I hadn’t even known what the word ‘code’ meant.”
God Performed Many Miracles To Help Mr. Wally Survive His “Widow-Maker” Heart Attack.
Another Code = Another Miracle
During the next couple of hours, Mr. Wally was given four morphine shots for the pain and “a good bit” of the blood thinner, Coumadin.
“They’d gotten me kind of stable,” he said. “Tonya was there and my daughter, Ashton, was on one side of me. The doctor was working on me and then he asked if the family members would please turn around.
“Of course, I was hurting,” he said. “But I was also thinking, ‘This doesn’t sound good'”
He was right. It wasn’t good. It was time for his second code.
“My heart had gone into a fibrillation,” he said. “I was alert and I’d been in so much pain, I didn’t realize what it was doing. About the time my family turned around, I heard one guy say, ‘Clear.’ And BAM, they shocked my heart back into a normal rhythm.” (Miracle.)
Mr. Wally didn’t enjoy his shocking experience. “It feels like you’re standing in a bucket of water and you reach up and grab a 220 electrical wire,” he said. “Or you’re standing there looking into space and somebody walks up behind you with a baseball bat and hits you across the back of the head.
“All I heard was ‘POW’ and I just saw bright white. It literally knocks the stew out of you, but that’s how it’s got to be. And somehow, that shock or something else, blew open that blockage—maybe. I don’t know, but the pain went away and I kind of settled down.”
Soon afterwards, medics and nurses with an air ambulance (helicopter) service came in to prep Mr. Wally for transport to a larger hospital with specialized cardiac units. He was told by one of the nurses that, besides getting him stable, they wouldn’t be able to do much at that time in the cardiac unit, due to all the blood thinners he’d been given.
Again, God had other plans.
A Timely Detour
Mr. Wally said that right before the helicopter started to land at the hospital, his chest started tightening up again. So instead of being taken to ICU, he was taken straight to the hospital’s Cath Lab.
The specialized imaging tests revealed another blockage in the works and, most probably, another heart attack on the way. “So, they put four stents in right away,” he said. (Miracle.)
Mr. Wally explained that having the stents put in, instead of having to have open heart surgery, made a lot of difference in his recovery time. “With stents, they go through the veins,” he said. “With open heart surgery to replace valves, they have to open your chest up.
“So, I actually had a widow-maker heart attack, but I didn’t have to overcome the surgery of it. It was for that reason—and the Lord—that I healed so soon.”
The morning after his heart attack, when he got the message from God that he’d recover 100%, Mr. Wally told everyone who visited him the good news, including his doctor. “Well, okay,” said the doctor.
For his first three days in ICU, Mr. Wally’s heart didn’t have to beat by itself. (Miracle.) The doctor had put a balloon pump in to allow his heart time to heal. Two days after the balloon pump was taken out, he got to go home—after having spent only five days in the hospital.
After six weeks of rehab activities and exercise, Mr. Wally returned for a checkup and an EKG, so the doctor could see how his heart was performing. “When the doctor came into the room, he had the report in his hand and he was just shaking his head,” Mr. Wally said.
“I can’t believe it,” the doctor said. “According to this EKG, you’ve never had a heart attack.” Mr. Wally reminded him of the prognosis he’d gotten from the good Lord. “Yeah, you told me that,” the doctor replied. (Miracle.)
TO Wally; FROM God: “Everything Is About Love”
God Is The Generator Of LOVE
We could have started our tale here, but thought you might enjoy reading about the many miracles that had to happen to keep Mr. Wally alive. And not just alive—but blessed—and able to share these miracles and his story of God’s love.
“When I had my heart attack, I knew my name was in the Lamb’s Book Of Life,” Mr. Wally said. “And I’d known that each day was a gift and we’re not guaranteed another second. And that life is about making a difference for God’s Kingdom.
“But after I nearly died, God placed in my spirit and consciousness a much stronger message that everything is about love. That’s what everything relates back to. No matter what road you are on, or if you get distracted on your path, it’s all back to God and His love. It’s all from Him.
“He is the generator of love.”
“God has a plan for each of us. We can walk that path or reject it. We’re our own boss. But life is a lot smoother when God is in charge and we acknowledge Him to be in charge. We’ve all walked close to the edge and—like with my heart attack—the Lord has brought us back.”
Our ‘Soul’ Purpose
Mr. Wally said he was told that “nothing good ever comes from a widow-maker heart attack.” And he would have agreed with that statement when he was going through his painful ordeal.
“But afterwards,” he said, “it gave me pause to think back on what the meaning of life is. You hear about things like this and people have written books about it and movies have been made about it—about why we’re here.
“We’re here and we were made to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Before we know Him or encounter Him, that’s our sole purpose—to become aware of who He is and what He is.
“And once you meet Him, and you become a child of His—and we are all children of His—but once we become aware of Him, it’s our sole purpose to encourage and introduce other people to Him.
“And that is what the meaning of life is. It’s love. And the way you do that is, you want to treat—not just your friend or your neighbor—but a stranger, somebody you don’t even know—as you would your own children or grandchildren.”
“It doesn’t make sense and you can’t rationalize it in your mind, because that’s what love is. You can’t define it. You can only feel it and experience it.”
Mr. Wally noted that Christ’s love is “unconditional, no strings attached, raw love” and that He loves us all.
“Even the guy or gal that you have no knowledge of what they’ve been through, or their pain or anger at what’s happened in their life,” he said. “He loves them as much as He loves you. He doesn’t love them any more than you, but He certainly doesn’t love them any less.
“We’re hard on ourselves, but we should love ourselves and our neighbors. God made us and God loves us. He made our neighbors and He loves our neighbors. We need to remember that hurting people hurt people. And we need to help hurting people.”
Mr. Wally also explained that all goodness and love come from God, because goodness and love start with Him. And they can only be multiplied.
“The more love you pour out, the more love there is,” he said. “The more love you give away, the more love you’ll have. God wants you to open up and He will fill your cup up. But you also need to turn around and share that love. God just wants us to spread the word and tell everybody we can.”
The More Love You Give – The More Love You’ll Have.
No Culls In God’s Family
Mr. Wally said God wants “all of his babies to be doted upon” and that there are “no culls” in God’s family. He explained that in the farming industry, sometimes there’s a runt in a litter of livestock and it may be sold or culled, because that particular animal doesn’t necessarily fit in with what the farmer is trying to raise or accomplish.
“Well, in the Lord’s Kingdom, there are no culls,” he said. “For an example, let’s use the shepherd boy, David, who killed Goliath and then went on to become king and was known ‘to have a heart after God’s own heart.’
“When God came and He sought Jesse’s sons and He anointed the king, it wasn’t the biggest or the strongest—it was the least,” he noted.
“David was the youngest and he’d already killed bears and lions, so he was pretty much a man. But compared to his brothers, on the outside, he would not have appeared to be the best choice.
“But that was the thing about David and his knowledge of what God had entrusted him. David knew that he could do anything with God. A lot of times we go out here in life and throw our hands up and say, ‘I can’t do it. It’s impossible, it’s too much.’
“And that’s true, if it were just you. But it’s not just you. We are all servants of the Most High and He has a greater plan for us than we do ourselves. When God looks at us, He sees us in our completed form. When we look at each other, we imagine the worst and we see the least.
“We just kind of underestimate each other and ourselves. Whereas, God doesn’t over-estimate us, but He looks at us and sees us in the completed form that we will be in His new Kingdom.”
It IS A Wonderful Life!
Mr. Wally said his favorite movie is “It’s A Wonderful Life,” where a suicidal businessman is shown what the life of those he loves—and his entire community—would have been like without him. Ultimately, the man realizes his positive impacts have made a huge difference in everyone’s lives.
“You need to know that everybody you come in contact with—it’s your responsibility for them to see Christ in you—at whatever point you are at in your journey,” Mr. Wally said. “You cannot pick and choose and there’s going to be some good times on your path, but there will also be some bad times and hard times.”
You Can’t Take Anything With You When You Leave This World, But You Can Leave Lots Of Love Behind.
A Second Chance
Near-death experiences change many people. What if you knew it was your last day on earth? How would you want to spend your time? Mr. Wally thinks most people would just want to be with their family.
“There are very few people who would say, ‘If I could just go back to the office for eight more hours, I’d be happy. Or I’d be successful. Or I could accomplish so much,'” he said.
“No, you want to go be with your loved ones and tell them what you need to tell them to get to where you are going. You want to share as much love as you can.”
Mr. Wally is taking advantage of his second chance at life and trying to get some things right that he doesn’t feel he did the best job at the first time.
He came to the Lord early, being saved at Vacation Bible School when he was in the fourth grade. After hearing about Jesus, Mr. Wally felt he “couldn’t get through another day without Him.” Shortly after he reached adulthood, he felt another call—this time into the world of ministry.
“I always believed in God all my life. And I thought I was special. Not because of who I was—but because of WHOSE I was.”
Mr. Wally said he wasn’t an athletic superstar in high school, but he did have a high-enough profile that he thinks he could have made a difference to one or two other students—if he’d taken a different outlook and attitude.
“I always regretted my high school days. I just didn’t act like the Christian I was,” he said. “And at this point in life, I believe the Lord has given me an opportunity to return to school—as a school bus driver.”
Mr. Wally was driving a church van when the thought of taking a side job as a school bus driver, and being able to minister to children, first came to him. He started out as a substitute driver, eventually moving up to a bus of his own.
As a bonus, God’s plan included him being able to participate in a school-based insurance program that covers himself and his wife—a program the private sector has no hope of competing with. “It’s one of those things the Lord has blessed me with that I had no clue about,” he noted.
“Mr. Wally” Has A Great Mirror View Of His Students From The Driver’s Seat.
Driving Students To Christ
Mr. Wally is glad he can go back to his old school days—somewhat. “I’m not in the classroom, but I am associated with the students—the pupils,” he said. “And I have the opportunity to tell them about Jesus. And who He is and what He does. And what He wants. He just wants a relationship.
“Jesus is NOT religion. Everybody wants to go back and call it this or that. And religion is a pretty dirty word this day and time to some people. But Jesus Christ is about relationships. He is the Father who wants His sons and daughters to come home to Him.”
Mr. Wally feels that adults can “speak life or light” into school-aged children or they can do the opposite, which is speak “death or dark” He chooses to speak life and light, sharing God’s love, and being joyful, peaceful, and encouraging at all times.
In his bus seat, he has an eagle eye view of his students four times a day. They each pass by him while loading up in the morning, getting off at school, and then repeating the process every afternoon in reverse. And he can sense if one of “his kids” is in trouble.
“When you’re around somebody 180 days out of the year, you can pretty much tell what’s going on with them,” he said. “When the students are coming up those stairs, or coming down the aisle and I’m looking at them in the mirror, I can see whether they’ve had a good day or a bad day. Or if they’re feeling up or down.”
One Caring Adult
Mr. Wally strives to be a positive role model to his bus riders, not only because he’s a minister, but because he’s aware of studies that prove that one caring adult—whether it be a grandmother, neighbor OR school bus driver—can make a huge difference in the life of an underprivileged child.
He was also inspired by someone who’d ridden his church bus. “They told me about a school bus driver who’d always had a ‘good word’ for them at the end of the day,” he said. “And how it changed their life.”
Addressed as “Mr. Wally” by his students (and this writer), this particular bus driver is adamant that ALL of his passengers are “good kids.”
“Every one of the kids on my bus—they are good kids,” he said. “I’ve never driven a school or church bus that didn’t have all good kids on it. There are kids that have some tough situations that they grow up in, but they’re still good kids.”
Mr. Wally understands that school students have no power over their home lives, and that times have changed dramatically since his school days.
“Most of the students on my bus, I’d say 50% of them, are from single-parent homes or their grandparents are raising them,” he said. “And it’s not a kid’s fault if they have a single parent or if their grandparents are raising them. That’s just the circumstances they’re growing up in.
“Plus, with the internet and all the other stuff they’ve getting exposed to—that we never had to deal with… I remember how hard it was for us and I can’t imagine growing up with what these kids are going through.”
Although Mr. Wally has many happy bus driving experiences, there are a couple of troubling incidences that still stand out in his mind.
One sad memory was seeing a little child running out to the bus barefoot in freezing weather, wearing a short-sleeved shirt and shorts. He said the child stopped to pick up his frost-covered shoes in the front yard, got on the bus, dusted off his feet and put on his shoes.
The other situation involved a trip on the church bus, taking home children who’d been dropped off for services. As he pulled the van up into the yard to let the children off, he could see them go into their home. Of course, it didn’t bother him that it was a manufactured home. He just felt bad because the home had no front door. “It was just like a cave,” he said.
Mr. Wally At The Wheel Of His School Bus – Ready To Roll.
It’s Going To Be A Good Day!
Mr. Wally said school systems train their bus drivers in how they wish them to interact with the students, such as morning and afternoon greetings.
He noted, “You follow your school’s training and then develop those guidelines into your own way of doing it. And that’s how the schools want it, too. I mean, some of those kids—you can talk to them from now on—they don’t want any interaction. And you just realize that.
“But some of the students, at least half of them, they’re going to talk to me and they want me to talk to them. Mostly it’s, ‘Have a good day,’ and then they reply, ‘You have a good day, too,’ and so on.”
Mr. Wally takes the safety of each of his riders very seriously and follows a strict routine. Before letting off riders, the bus caution light is flipped to flashing status, then the brakes are applied, and then the doors are opened.
After checking mirrors and looking around, he said nearly the same routine is followed—but in reverse—when the bus starts to pull away. He’s only had one minor slip regarding that routine, but it caused him to doubt himself and question if he was indeed on the path he’d felt led to follow.
“When I first started driving the bus, I had an ‘almost-incident’ on the bus with some kids who were off the bus,” he said. “I had one of the little kids from behind me come walking up the aisle and he asked me a question. I was trying to answer him and I got out of my protocol.
“I started to pull off before my kids had gotten all the way off the road, but I didn’t,” he said. “I got the bus stopped… But still, it was one of those things that just really made me uncomfortable enough to even start second-guessing, ‘Maybe, I don’t need to be doing this?'”
Once again, God provided the direction he needed. After hearing a special speaker at his church, Mr. Wally went up to him after the service and told him about what had happened. His advice? “Well, you just need to be praying over it every day before you come and go,” said the man.
“He told me to pray Hebrews 1:14,” said Mr. Wally. “So, every day, in the morning before I start, when I’m on the bus and in my seat, I pray over the bus and over all the kids. And then I pray again in the afternoon before we start back home. ‘So, the angel of the Lord will set about and look after us and take care of us and make sure no harm comes to anybody.'”
Nothing Can Ever Separate Us From God’s Love.
Favorite Bible Verse
To close out his message for us, Mr. Wally was asked to share his favorite Bible Verse. “It’s Romans 8:28-38,” he said.
The last verse reads, “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”
Mr. Wally noted, “No matter how bad it gets or how low you get. Or how discouraged you are. Or how you think you’ve messed up. And you’ve done this and you didn’t mean to do it. Or you meant to do it, but now it’s got found out. Or whatever…
“These verses say to me that God’s message is not just from the leader of the free world or the developer of this cosmos—this messages is from the Maker of everything that ever was and ever will be.
“HE has sent you a note saying there is nothing—no height, no depth or width—nothing can separate you from His love. He is saying, ‘You are sealed and you are mine.’
“And the only way you will get away is when I’m going to let you go. But I’ve never let anybody go yet, so I’m not going to start with you.”
“You are mine.”
“When you understand that… That’s what everybody wants to hear and to know—that you’re loved and cared for—and there’s nothing you can do to screw it up. It’s unconditional love… From now on.”
And for all of us, that’s the best Valentine EVER—a “BE MINE” from God!
Anyone Who Does Not Love Does Not Know God, Because God Is Love. 1 John 4:8
(Photo Credits: Valentine With Bible & Cross – ChazZ; Goats – Wally Haney; Heart And Stethoscope – Pexels; Scrabble LOVE Letters – Ylanite Koppens/Pexels; Cross Silhouette – Pixabay; Heart Tree And Man – Rakicevic Nenad/Pexels; Mr. Wally In Mirror – ChazZ; Mr. Wally Student POV – ChazZ; and Cross Bookmark – Rawpixel/Pexels.)
RISK ROUNDUP—Each family has their own holiday traditions. While some traditions are handed down from the generations before, other traditions begin with a need or desire, or even on a whim—and then just get repeated year after year.
To get in the spirit of the season and help spread holiday cheer, our staff was asked to share three of their favorite holiday traditions.
Reading And Meditating On The Real Christmas Story
This is the one thing, I think, that if we’re not careful, we skip right past—the real reason for Christmas when the Lord established it.
And the way that we’ve been blessed to be able to go back to this and find the strength that God would have us to have from this story of the Babe born in Bethlehem.
The fact that He was born and the strength that that provides us in our daily lives. If it wasn’t for the fact… if He had never been born, we couldn’t draw from this and get through this world and have the blessings that God provides us.
Selection Of My Wife’s Christmas Present
I spend a great deal of time selecting my wife’s Christmas present. And I enlist my granddaughters. They’ll usually have some sort of idea. And then, together, we put all of this together and try to buy her a Christmas present that she will not only like, but will use.
Last year, with their help and advice, I got her a computer tablet. She has continued to use and enjoy her tablet all year long.
Seeing The Magic Of Christmas In My Great-Grandchildren’s Eyes
I’ve gone past seeing it in my grandchildren—they’re grown. Now I’m seeing it in my great-grandchildren—the magic that only a child can reach for in this Christmas season.
It’s about the whole season and everything that’s encompassed in Christmas—whether it be church-centered or gift giving—It’s just a magic time for them.
And we’re able to share that. And watching them kind of brings back some of the times we had when we were their age.
Sharing The Joy And Excitement
Probably my number one favorite tradition is buying gifts for friends and loved ones and watching them open them and seeing their expressions.
That’s the best part of all of it to me, as far as a tradition goes.
Of course, that’s not what Christmas is about—we all know that.
But I just love to share in the joy and excitement of others.
Especially when my baby sister, Allie, was little, because she is so much younger than me. I was 22 when she was born and it’s always been so much fun to see her wake up to Santa.
When she was little-bitty, I can remember one Christmas morning when she woke up and she looked around at everything and then looked up at us and said, “He shouldn’t have.”
It was great just watching her grow up—seeing a little one experience all that Christmas magic.
I also felt that way about my middle sister, Valerie, who is five years younger than me. Even when I got older, in my early teens, I would still get so excited about Santa Claus for her.
I’d jump up out of bed just wanting to see what he brought her.
I’d always make her sleep with me Christmas Eve night because she’s always been one who didn’t want to get up. So, I’d make her sleep with me, so I could at least make her get up.
One year, when I was 12 or so and didn’t believe in Santa anymore, I still got so excited.
I woke up and I was saying, “Wake up, wake up, we gotta get up!” And I’d somehow gotten my feet tangled up in the blanket, so when I went to get up out of bed, I just fell head first out of bed and hit my head on my nightstand.
Valerie has always laughed about that, saying, “Here you are, nearly grown, and you don’t even think Santa is real, but you’re still so excited.”
And she was little and thought Santa was real, so she’s supposed to be excited and ready to go, but she didn’t even want to get out of bed.
Family Time On Christmas Eve
Another favorite tradition is just getting together with family. Even though we all live in the same city, the Haney’s on this side of the family only truly all get together once a year. We do see each other Thanksgiving, but it’s not such an extended visit.
This is the one day when all the cousins and aunts and uncles get together and have the best time—playing games and cuttin’ up.
And I’ve always loved that day. It’s Christmas Eve and we just stay at MaMa and PaPa’s for hours. And we just have the best time.
There are six first cousins, plus the aunts and uncles, and Mama and Papa, and the new little ones—it’s a houseful—around 20 to 25 of us. And we just sit around and joke and play games and just stay for hours and hours.
Even if you had to leave, to go to a significant other’s family, you came back. You didn’t just stay gone. You went over there and did what you had to do so you could get back.
I’m really looking forward to this year’s get together.
Secret Santa Shopping
From the time we were little, mother was involved in the Coterie Club and they would sponsor a kid at Eldridge Children’s Home or through the Hamilton First Baptist Church’s youth group or DHR (Department of Human Resources). So, we would always get a kid to buy for and I’ve always enjoyed that.
I loved going out and buying things for kids or individuals that might not have a Christmas, if you didn’t go do some of those things for them.
Last year, I got to take Allie to do her Secret Santa shopping and we had the best time. We had three little kids to buy for and we had just a blast buying and picking out things for them.
It’s a really great tradition—going out and doing that every year.
Going To PaPa And MaMa’s House
As a child, we always went to my grandparents for Christmas where we’d meet up with my cousins and show them everything that Santa Claus had brought us.
We’d get up at home and see what Santa had left and open our presents. We got mostly toys and clothes. Then, when I was about 11 or 12, I got a .22 Rifle. I was just so excited. I still have that rifle.
Then, mid-morning, we would go down to PaPa and MaMa’s house and spend the day, getting there around lunchtime and coming home that night.
Always, Papa would have a peppermint log that was about 3-inches thick and about 15-inches long. It was a great ‘ole big thing. On Christmas morning, he would open it and break it up. Papa shared it with everybody that wanted some, so it would be almost gone before lunch.
The Gift Of Giving
One of the best Christmases I’ve ever had was the year that I went with an old friend from school to deliver turkeys and other items to several families in need.
It was just going to visit and telling people you love them and giving them something they needed.
The things we gave were everyday-type items, like knives and ropes, but also each family got a turkey.
It was an awesome way to spread Christmas cheer.
I’d always heard it, but until you experience it, you can’t understand it. People can tell you all the time the sky is blue, but until you see the blue sky you don’t understand.
I’d always heard it’s much better to give than receive, but I’d never understood that until the Lord let me give something to somebody who didn’t have as much. After that, you truly understand what the Lord meant when He said that.
The No-Gift Exchange
Most of the time, my wife, Tonya, and I don’t exchange Christmas presents. We know of several other couples who also have this tradition.
Like them, we save that money and then go on a trip or special vacation. But it’s a trade-off and some years, we’ll make one big purchase instead.
On our Christmas list, we have six children (including their spouses) and eight grandchildren.
There is a reason they are called “Grand” children. You can’t love your grandchildren any more than do your children, because you love your children with your whole heart.
The difference is—in your children you see your inadequacies and your failures and where you messed up. And with your grandchildren, you don’t see that. You just see pure love—which is straight from Christ.
Viewing The Christmas Lights Together
One of my earliest memories was our family’s holiday tradition of driving through certain neighborhoods and seeing all of the Christmas lights together. “Ooh’s and Aah’s” from four children and two adults filled our vehicle—similar to the sounds made at fireworks shows.
When my son was a boy, we recreated this tradition and its magic. There was even a special home in our town where the family went all-out with its decorations. They festively trimmed their home, each tree and every shrub. They even created massive stand-alone structures to string more lights on.
This year, my son and his wife will take their 15-month-old son to see some Christmas lights near their home. He seems to enjoy lights, and responded strongly to lights and shadows even as an infant. I can imagine his joyful little face reflected in the glow of Christmas lights.
And so the tradition continues.
It’s Beginning To Look A lot Like Chili
When my son was small, we always traveled to visit family and friends at Christmas. Trip times varied, but the closest was half a day away, while others involved hours of plane travel and several airport stops.
When he was older and playing sports that involved Christmas tournaments, we had to stay a little closer to home. Since I was most definitely not the cook that my mother, aunts or grandmother was, I came up with the bright idea one year to make some chili for Christmas.
It turned out great and a new tradition was born. We even got together to create holiday chili for several years with a couple of his teammates and their mothers, as we’d become friends while cheering on our sons from the bleachers.
Chili is a great time-saving idea. You can cook it up on Christmas Eve and then just spend all day Christmas playing with the kids. Chili is also one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day.
Do You Hear What I Hear
I don’t remember when I started my personal “Best Christmas Song Contest,” but I’ve been doing it at least a decade and it’s become one of my favorite traditions.
Each year, I listen carefully to narrow my choices down from all my favorites and the winner has to be chosen before or on Christmas Eve.
Many times I’ve said, “That’s the best song this year,” only to change my mind the next day when I hear another great Christmas song. But usually, there seems to be one special song that stands out above all the rest.
Unlike the usual shopping, crowds, and hustle and bustle; this silly song contest is just a lot of free fun for no good reason! It’s also interesting to ask others what their favorite Christmas song is. You may be surprised by the answers.
Some of my past winners include: “Let There Be Peace On Earth,” by Vince Gill; “Christmas Canon (Pachelbel’s Canon in D),” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra; “Let It Be Christmas,” by Alan Jackson; “Angels Among Us,” by Alabama; and “Breath of Heaven,” by Amy Grant.
One year, I even selected “The Grinch,” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. A couple of my local favorites were: “Blue Christmas (Instrumental) by Wild Bill Emerson and “Christmas In My Hometown,” by Sonny James.
It’s still too early to name this year’s top hit, but “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer,” by Elmo & Pasty seems like a good contender for sentimental reasons. This is only my second Christmas to be a grandmother and one of my first thoughts after hearing the blessed news (after “Thank you, Lord”) was, “Yeah! Now I can get run over by a reindeer!”
We hope you enjoyed reading this special blog post. We certainly had a great time strolling down memory lane.
Please make sure to take some time during this busy holiday season to enjoy your own traditions or find the fun in making new ones.
All of us at American Risk Managers sincerely wish you “The Merriest of Christmases and the Happiest of New Years!”
“For Unto You Is Born This Day In The City Of David A Saviour, Which Is Christ The Lord.”
(Photo Credit: Pixabay)
Counting blessings and being thankful are the foundations of Thanksgiving. Along with enjoying other popular annual traditions, such as eating turkey and watching football, many families take time to express their gratitude.
Since we can’t watch the game with you or sit down together for a meal, we would like to share a few of the things that we are most thankful for.
The American Risk Managers’ staff was also asked to pass along any holiday advice, handed-down traditions or heartfelt messages.
Contributors for this Thanksgiving posting include our Vice-President Jessica Spears; our Chairman of the Board Walter Haney, Sr.; our President Wally Haney; and Marketing Director Chazz Hirschfeld.
I am thankful for:
- My family;
- My friends;
- My job;
- Getting better (she was recently hospitalized);
- Wonderful doctors;
- Wonderful nurses; and
- Holidays in general—because you get to spend time with your family.
Special Message From Jessica
Around the holidays, just remember to slow down, take the time and enjoy each other. Don’t rush to try to get here and get there and get it over with. Just slow down and enjoy each other.
Take Time To Enjoy Your Family & Friends
I am thankful for the protection and the blessings of God for my family and this company, and for my friends.
I thank the Lord that I’ve been protected and led, and in some instances, made well despite myself.
I am thankful that we have and serve a great God. A God that we don’t understand sometimes, but we know it’s a God that we can trust.
And with all the things that this country is facing, we know that ultimately, it’ll be in the hands of God and He’ll direct them.
Whereas, we’re all blessed so much to be living here in this country and in this section of the country and in this community. It’s one of the most blessed areas left on this earth.
I’m just so thankful for my family, for this company, for the people that work here, for the people who’ve been associated with us. We have been blessed beyond measure and I thank God for it.
Special Message From Walter
We can all be thankful for the opportunity to come together in family units and enjoy each other. And we shouldn’t be so driven by hurrying some place. Thanksgiving is a time to relax and take advantage of what’s been provided for us.
I am thankful for:
- My family;
- My friends;
- Our country; and
- The opportunity to make a difference in somebody’s life.
My name Is written in the book—that’s the most important thing I’m grateful for—the Lamb’s Book of Life.
And then the Lord gave me Tonya (my wife). After her, my family, the girls, their husbands, the grandbabies, Mom, Dad, Debra (my sister) and her bunch.
Special Messages from Wally
Life is so short.
That’s one of the things that I always remember. Fifty-five years ago, when I was about 3 or 4 years old, I was walking to the mailbox with my PawPaw.
He had me by the hand and we were walking up through there and he said, “You better enjoy your time. It won’t be very long and you’ll be as old as me.”
And I remember looking at his hand and seeing all the wrinkles and thinking, “I’m never going to be that old.” I’m older now than he was then.
Enjoy each day and know it’s a gift from the Lord.
We’re not guaranteed another second. But if we get it, we need to make a difference for His Kingdom. That’s what life is all about.
God has a plan for each of us.
We have the opportunity to walk that path or reject it. The only times I’ve ever really messed up is when I’ve been making the decisions and the choices. Life is a lot smoother when He’s in charge. And when I acknowledge Him to be in charge.
We’re just blessed to live in this country.
And this country needs to return back to the foundation on which it began.
Make Memories To Last A Lifetime
- I am grateful that God loves me. I am thankful for God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
- I am thankful for my family and am blessed with a wonderful son, a great daughter-in-law and a precious 14-month old grandson.
- I am grateful for my sisters and my brother and that we had a wonderful mother and father.
- I am thankful for my extended family and for dear friends.
- I am appreciative of the opportunity to work in a service-oriented business with kind bosses and nice clients.
- I am grateful for my health and for knowledgeable and considerate doctors and nurses.
- I am thankful that my elderly cat is recovering from a recent stroke and that she has a great vet and vet assistant.
- I am appreciative of those who contributed to our business efforts this year: most especially our Good Lord; but also our friend (and Samurai Ad Dude) Gavin Petty (of Alabama Media Group 205-325-3338); and the super talented ThriveHive Team.
- I am glad and thankful that I was blessed for many years to be a part of enormous family Thanksgiving holidays—with too much food to fit on one table—inside homes overflowing with people who were all kin to me.
- I am grateful that each new day brings an endless stream of possibilities and that God is guiding my steps on a path He created just for me.
Special Message from Chazz
My Thanksgiving wishes for you are:
- That you be kind to yourself;
- That you never hesitate to love; and
- That you count your blessings, which leads to even more abundance.
This Is The Day Which The LORD Hath Made; We Will Rejoice And Be Glad In It. Psalm 118:24
(Photo Credits: Arms Outstretched In Thanksgiving – Pixabay.com; Family – CreativeVix.com; and Hands – Juan Pablo Arenas from Pexels.)
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