Nov 21

EXTRAordinary Men Who Followed an EXTRAordinary Example

 

Simply EXTRAordinaryIf you pull into the BP on Cleveland Street, in Greenville, South Carolina, you might feel like you have stepped back into a more, gentle America.  Don’t even try to open the door to pump your own gas.  The three Seymoure brothers will not let that happen on their watch.  “Fill her up, and how are the kids?”
Hoyt Seymoure

Their father inspired that kind of yesterday service. Seymoure’s BP is not a gas station – it is a service station.
Hoyt Seymoure Sr. opened the service station right after serving his nation in WWII.  Proud to have done his part to make the world a better place, he came home to help America get back on its feet, opened a business, and practiced high ideals. 
He believed in “full-service”, and that is what you get today, because his three sons followed in his footsteps and believe in the same principles.

If you wake up to a dead battery, or some other malfunction that strands you, one of the Seymour boys will pick you up,deliver you to your destination, and fix the car.  All at a reasonable price. More importantly – they’ll do it with a smile.  It is not one of those “brand-trained” smiles.  It comes straight from the heart.  After all, they have their Dad’s reputation to maintain, and they just feel “right” about operating the way their father did.
Sure, they could have put in self-serve pumps, but then it would not be Seymour’s BP.  It would be a gas station, a little mart, like all the rest.  Hoyt, Roger and Rick, felt that service was more important than money.  Maybe they wouldn’t get rich.  So what.  They do what Dad would have wanted them to do.  Besides, it is just who the Seymoure boys are – Extraordinary.  I am sure Dad is proud. 

Sep 05

EXTRAordinary Paralympian Makes News Worth Watching

There is rarely anything to cheer about when I zap on the nightly news.  More of our heroes killed in Afghanistan, car crashes, floods, drought, but as a former journalist, I am a bit of an addict. (I usually watch two networks.)  Last night I only needed one network to make me cry, cheer, and celebrate the extraordinary human spirit.  The Paralympics now have taken London’s center stage, and with the competition, hundreds of heart-breaking stories, and magnificent come-backs.
In 2005 Martine Wiltshire, was so proud that her glorious city would get the 2012 Olympic games, she celebrated, slept in, and took a different route to work.  One minute, the underground – the tube, was crowded with people smiling about winning the Olympics, the next, Wiltshire’s world exploded.  Suicide bombers had boarded the tube, and loosed hell.  The tube became a mass of twisted, broken, steel that held bleeding, and dying people who were just trying to get to work.
The blast tore Martine’s life to pieces.  She barely lived losing both legs. That scarcely slowed her down.  She told NBC that she had two choices, to lie down and never walk again, or get up and go on with life.  And go on she did, with an extraordinary tour de force for living.  She got married, became a mom, and is now a star athlete at the Paralympic Games.  

 Martine plays sit down volleyball. 

And do not get in her way!  She plays like a barracuda – tenacious, but with an extraordinary spirit, and gratefulness to be exactly who she is.

The news ended and I felt like I knew I had just witnessed something extraordinary.  I had been  introduced to a most extraordinary woman, a determined athlete.  By Connie Timpson
Performance Coach and author of “You Are Extraordinary.”

Aug 19

Extraordinary Creativity Replaces Decay

Extraordinary was the only word to describe Long Branch New Jersey in the 20’s and 30’s.Then the money moved closer to the beach, to the water’s edge.  The old days of high life in Long Branch, New Jersey have faded like photographs left in the rain.   
Now the streets that lead you from Newark Airport through this old downtown take you past an area that has seen much better times.  There are a few other routes.  This one is shorter and far more interesting.  

Boarded up windows, and falling down bricks are being turned into extraordinary pieces of art.  There is a spirit here, an extraordinary feeling of re-birth, or new birth, a Rivera, or Walker would be right at home on these walls.   Fine dining, dancing, drinking and drenching one’s self in the sun has moved closer to the ocean, but extraordinary art has come to the deserted streets of Long Branch. By Connie Timpson

Aug 14

Slow Down! Extraordinary Canucks Crossing

(Please don’t ask us why the geese crossed the road.)

Extraordinary!  Someone is looking out for those fuzzy, tiny, winged Canadians!  Mom and Dad do what they can.  Don’t get too close or Dad will hiss, spit, and chase you.  So give them a little space.  They may be a little confused what with it being summer in Florida.  (They take global warming very seriously.)  No point in beating your wings for days on end just to summer in Canada, pack up, turn around and dodge planes all the way back to Florida.  Besides, the grass really is greener here.  They like it so much, that we have watched the same pair bring adorable little ones into the world two years in a row.  Sign person – you are EXTRAordinary!

Dec 06

An Uncelebrated Artist

When people learn that I am a former journalist many ask,  “Who is the most famous person you have ever met?”  I always hesitate, because “famous” is not important to me at all.  It is true, that some famous people are also extraordinary, and I celebrate those people, like President Jimmy Carter, Benazir Bhutto, Johnny Cash and June Carter, Lakota Olympiad, Billy Mills, and others.  The better question is – who is the most extraordinary person you have ever met?  Ah…there are many.  All of them humble-risk takers, and most do not see their exquisite gifts, do not realize that they are extraordinary.
We came to hear Geechee or Gullah, the nearly extinct language born of slavery.  Taken captive, from different African countries, slaves created the language as a way to communicate amongst themselves, to tell stories, share secrets, and plan escapes from their lives of misery.  Mixing African, English, French and Portuguese, this creative blended language, provided a cloak of protection for the lips that spoke it.  The man with the whip; frustrated, but none the wiser. 
As we stepped onto Sapelo, a barrier island off the coast of Georgia, we were seduced by the laid back rhythm of the island.  Nothing, or no one is in a hurry to go anywhere, or do anything.  We rented the only possibility on the island, a broken down, just roll the windows down for a little relief from the heat, 1960 Ford station wagon.  It nearly drowned us in waves of silt as we choked our way towards what we learned was a family that had descended from slavery, and spoke the melodic old language.  The car stalled in the silt and we walked a mile or more through brushy marshland that we were later told had a “few varmints” we were lucky not to have met.
We are nosy journalists, so yes, we just showed up.
A man, worn by some of life’s most punishing seas, sat in a lawn chair weaving an intricate basket from Sweet Grass that grows over much of the island.  We introduced ourselves and told him we wanted to know more about the Gullah language and hear it spoken.  He threw his head back and laughed, then shook his head and muttered ummm…ummm…ummm.  We prodded him.
He walked us back through history, in the language of his people first, then translating, as his fingers worked the design in the grass to the cadence of this melodic language.  His words were beautiful.  But I couldn’t keep my eyes off his hands.  Deeply lined by life, misshapen from arthritis, decades of working, and weaving, they were kinetic art themselves.  His movements seemed to come from an inner voice, a collective memory spanning generations. 
He caught my eye, shook his Sweet Grass creation, and said it was nothing special.  It was just one of those things his grandpa taught him to do.  And like his grandfather, he taught his own grandchildren.  Some were more interested than others, but his basket weaving, gave him a little spending money.  
My wallet flew out of my bag.  I wanted a piece of artistry created by those magnificent hands, which seemed to tell stories as he turned sweet grass into art.  I bought, and now cherish one of his creations.

I took pictures, (after his wife ran in to put on her best Sunday wig) and kept questioning this piece of living history.  I told him that we would like to write an article about him, the Gullah language, and his stunning creations.  He said, “Nah…It ain’t nothing special.”  I pushed.

His wife spoke for him.  “Sum a his stuff is in DC.” 
Where” I puzzled out loud, trying to figure out where her question would lead us.
“Let me show ya somthin,” she replied and scurried into the little clapboard house and returned with a newspaper clipping in her hand. My fingers met newsprint, so loved with time and touching, that it felt like my grandma’s favorite linen handkerchief before she starched it.  I looked down and my heart stopped.
In the photo, James Green stood with three of his extraordinary baskets.  His “ain’t nothing special” artistry is part of a permanent display in America’s most prestigious museum.  The Smithsonian.  He repeated,  “It’s nothin.” 
To me and my fellow journalist, this was more than somthin!  This Gullah speaking man and his creations were EXTRAordinary.
This story could have been little more than data:
§  When were the first slaves of the Gullah community brought to Sapello?  1802.
§   How was the language created?  They combined languages.
§  When were their ancestors freed?  1864.  
Important, data for historians, but the story of the people who lived, and live there, is far more powerful.  In fact, facts are often downright forgettable.  The facts become almost irrelevant after you are invited to walk into the story of extraordinary people like this humble basket maker on Sapello Island.  
That is just one story, amid many, about people who do not recognize that their individual experience, their life, or their actions, become a story filled with color and expertise.  Their story, and who they are become a rich gift of the person, they may not even realize that they are. 
Inside each of us is an extraordinary person.  Yes, there is.  Look for it in others and recognize it in yourself. 

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