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REQUIEM

Below are the two final essays to be posted on Allegiance and Duty Betrayed. The first one is written by a friend -- screen name 'Euro-American Scum' -- who, over the past four years, has been the most faithful essayist here. He has written about everything from his pilgrimage to Normandy in 2004 to take part in the 60th–year commemoration of the invasion, to his memories of his tour in Vietnam. His dedication to America’s founding principles ... and those who have sacrificed to preserve them over the past 200+ years ... is unequaled. Thank you, E-A-S. It has been a privilege to include your writing here, and it is a privilege to call you my friend.

The second essay is my own farewell. And with it I thank all of the many regular visitors, and those who may have only dropped in occasionally, for coming here. I hope you learned something. I hope a seed or two was planted. But, even if not, I thank you for stopping by ... 25 March, 2010

12/23/2009

Christmas Reflections


For the past nearly fifty years, there has been a small mom and pop grocery store in our neighborhood – a clapboard place that humbly occupied about 5,000 square feet when it first opened in 1962. Above the store is a small (perhaps 1,200 sq. ft.), but cozy, apartment.

The man who built the original store – I’ll call him Dave Martin (I’ll not use his real name, simply because I believe he wouldn’t have wanted me to) – was a man of Mennonite ancestry who combined his lifelong desire to own his own small business with the desire to provide a convenient, homey, affordable place for his neighbors to purchase their groceries, fresh meat and produce.

Though not very large or impressive, Martin’s Store has thrived for decades. It was the place to shop for groceries back in the sixties and seventies. Since its original foundation was laid, it has expanded four times, and now occupies about 12,000 square feet.

In 1984, Dave Martin decided to open another facility. Despite warnings from many business ‘experts’, both local and from other areas of the country, that he was biting off much more than he could chew, and overestimating the need for such an establishment, he built another substantially larger facility about ten miles down the road from his original clapboard store.

The new facility, which has now been in business for twenty-five years, offers 95,000 square feet and twenty-three aisles of grocery shopping, and includes a banquet facility that can seat up to four hundred people.

Shoppers come from all over south-central PA to patronize Martin’s store and it has earned a sterling reputation as a business of quality and integrity. During business hours, one cannot drive by the store without witnessing a parking lot overflowing with cars. In addition to the store itself, the Martin complex now houses a florist, a drug store, a medical lab and an insurance company.

Both of Dave Martin’s stores – the small clapboard grocery that opened the year before John Kennedy was assassinated, and the large, and expanding, business that followed twenty-two years later – are closed on Sundays. While the rest of the area is bustling with tourists, or antiquers, or locals out for a Sunday drive, the two Martin parking lots sit empty and motionless, as a visible reminder of Dave Martin's belief in the sanctity of the sabbath.

I knew Dave Martin for about twenty-five years before he passed away about ten years ago. As I have mentioned here on the forum before, I serve as an elected official in our small township. He used to come into my office at the municipal building to transact business now and then. He would always come toward the end of the day, and we would chat for an hour or so, after my office hours ended, and before each of us headed home for dinner.

He was a humble man of unquestionable integrity. He and his wife lived in the small apartment above the original grocery store. After the enormous success of his new and much larger enterprise, did he expand his ‘needs’ and increase his personal living requirements? No. Until the day he died, he continued to live in that modest little apartment. As far as I know, his wife is living there still.

His lack of desire to live more lavishly, when he could certainly have afforded to do so, had absolutely nothing to do with a miserly nature, or an inordinate desire to pinch pennies. It had much more to do with a realization of the relative value of material vs. spiritual things. The fact that what you have is not an accurate measure of who you are.

One particularly severe winter, the roof blew off the Catholic school in a nearby town. The church was having difficulty coming up with the $20,000 needed to replace that roof. Dave Martin, hearing of the church’s plight, wrote a $20,000 check to the roofing company, with the agreement that no one would ever know from where the funds came. You see, Dave was a Mennonite, and there may have been a handful of people who would have criticized his meeting another religion’s needs. And yet Dave saw all needs in the community as his own, and responded quite often, and quite anonymously, to more of those needs than we may ever know. It was only after Dave passed away, that the source of the funds for the school roof was revealed, and I am certain he would still have preferred otherwise. I am also certain that many other community needs were met as a result of Dave Martin’s quietly-opened, well-worn wallet.

When the blizzard of ’96 hit our area, leaving 36” inches of snowfall in its wake, Rick and I thought it would be memorable to see how far we could walk after the snow had stopped falling. Martin’s newer market was a mere two blocks from our home at the time, and it took us well over an hour to walk to the vicinity of the store. Upon setting foot onto the vast parking lot, more than waist-deep in fallen snow, we were astounded to see lights on in the store itself a few hundred feet away. Walking through the doors, we came upon the courtesy counter and saw none other than Dave Martin and his wife manning the store. There were no other employees to be seen. We asked them how on earth they managed to travel the ten miles from their apartment to this, the larger market, and they replied, ‘We slept here last night, knowing that we probably wouldn’t have been able to make it in this morning, and we couldn’t ask our employees to venture out in such a storm.’ The 95,000 square foot store was empty but for the Martins, a couple of state policemen, two other neighbors who lived across the street, and us. But the store was open, in case anyone was in need of anything.

On one occasion, when he was getting up in years, Dave Martin said to me in a moment of deep reflection, ‘I won’t be around forever, and I’ve asked my sons to honor my wishes not to do business at our markets on Sunday. I hope and pray that they will keep that promise after I am gone.’ There was a perceptible sadness in his voice, and an almost desperate longing for this particular wish to be honored.

Dave left us about ten years ago and his sons have thus far been true to their promise.

There are countless other examples I could cite of Dave Martin’s goodness. But I’ll simply end with this abbreviated list. My purpose in sharing at least a small part of Dave’s story with you is to express the belief that so often the people who most affect our lives, and who leave an indelible mark on our own personal view of the world, are those who do not seek to do so. They simply live their lives in quiet humility, seeking to put the needs of others above their own, and simply hoping, in some small way, to leave the world a better place than it was when they arrived.

If we, as a nation, once again begin to envision such character-laden people as role models ... even heroes ... and begin to question the genuine value of those among us who place wealth, fame, power and notoriety highest on their list of priorities, we will have placed ourselves back onto a pathway that leads to genuine and lasting prosperity.

At this most holy time of year, no matter our faith, or our walk in life, I hope we (myself certainly included) will all take the time to look around us for our own Dave Martins. Ask ourselves what we can do to be more like them. And tell them how much we appreciate their example. Choosing role models who place humility before notoriety, and others before self, will surely go far in helping us to become a better people, striving to serve as a reflection of His goodness and grace.

~ joanie

17 comments:

John Cooper said...

I think Mr. "Martin" would be pleased that you remember him so fondly.

Thanks for the uplifting story. We're going to be needing a lot of those if things continue...

Anonymous said...

Very very beautiful. Thank you SO much.

Karen McCrea

Anonymous said...

While I have always read your blog, and your writing has touched me in many ways Joanie, this was the most powerful fro me as it is the most important of skills for people. Almost a pay it forward type scenario, which I subscribe to. As a Jewish American, I can tell you that I am going to share oyur stroy of hope and good will with my entire company at lunchtime as we wind down our tough year and get reminded by you and Dave what really counts. (with your permission ofcourse)

A very happy holiday season and healthy new year for you and oyur family and thanks for sharing a story that made this Jew feel a little bit of Christmas!

H.B.

KathyMlynczak said...

"Dave Martin" reminds me of George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life.

My favorite lines from that classic movie:

Just a minute - just a minute. Now, hold on, Mr. Potter. You're right when you say my father was no businessman. I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante Building and Loan, I'll never know. But neither you nor anyone else can say anything against his character, because his whole life was - why, in the twenty-five years since he and Uncle Billy started this thing, he never once thought of himself. Isn't that right, Uncle Billy?

He didn't save enough money to send Harry to school, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter, and what's wrong with that?

Why - here, you're all businessmen here. Doesn't it make them better citizens? Doesn't it make them better customers? You - you said - what'd you say a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they're so old and broken down that they...

Do you know how long it takes a working man to save five thousand dollars? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about... they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?

Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well, in my book he died a much richer man than you'll ever be.


Merry Christmas all!

2ndAmendmentDefender said...

Choosing role models who place humility before notoriety, and others before self, will surely go far in helping us to become a better people, striving to serve as a reflection of His goodness and grace.

Amen!

And Merry Christmas!

robmaroni said...

What a wonderful story for Christmas, Joanie! Thank you for sharing Dave Martin's fine example. And Merry Christmas to you and Rick!

TrustButVerify said...

Thank you for this inspirational story Joanie, and I am so touched by H.B.'s comment above that he will be sharing it with his company. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and Rick!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this beautiful story of a beautiful man, Joanie. And merry Christmas to you and yours.

Anonymous said...

I am overwhelmed!

What a heartfelt description of a wonderful man!

Thank you for reminding us about what's important and what isn't. Our government lost sight of that long ago.

Sue Ladyn

Buster said...

***At this most holy time of year, no matter our faith, or our walk in life, I hope we (myself certainly included) will all take the time to look around us for our own Dave Martins. Ask ourselves what we can do to be more like them. And tell them how much we appreciate their example. Choosing role models who place humility before notoriety, and others before self, will surely go far in helping us to become a better people, striving to serve as a reflection of His goodness and grace.***

Something very close to that would be a beautiful holiday grace before a meal.

Thanks Joanie. I hope you and yours had a memorable Christmas!

joanie said...

'Anonymous':

Sincere apologies for not getting back to you sooner. I hope you didn't feel that you needed 'permission' to share Dave Martin's story with your employees, and I am privileged to know that you desired to do so!

Heartfelt thanks for your very kind comments, and best wishes to you and yours for a New Year filled with peace, joy and contentment!

~ joanie

joanie said...

All --

Thank you so much for your kind comments on this story. It is gratifying to know that Dave Martin's choices touched so many of you in the same way they did me.

I hope all your Christmases were warm and wonderful, and best wishes for a New Year that preserves our liberties and sees a return to the America that our Founders envisioned and for which they sacrificed so dearly.

~ joanie

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this.

Anonymous said...

What a great Christmas story. On the surface it has nothing to do with Christmas. Underneath it has everything to do with Christmas.

Happy New Year to everyone.

Brad Zimmerman

Birddude said...

Thank you for the lovely story of "Dave Martin". You have gifted us all with a true "hero". Too often our heroes are movie stars and sports personalities that lack in humanity, integrity and humility.

I recently finished "Where Men Win Glory" about Pat Tillman. I categorized him as a talented jock who was just a gung ho jarhead. Pat was an incredible human being who was a true seeker and thinker. Pat sought to better himself physically and mentally and for me is a true hero.

Thanks again for another inspiration in the form of the "humble servant".

B. said...

Sometimes I wonder how much more damage bad Govt. can do? Foreclosures? 30% credit cards? Growing bread lines?

Where & how will all the good folks, NOT on Wall Street, who want "honest jobs" & NOT working for the Govt., make a living?

How many more people can work for Govt...Where we live we are taxed & must support Village, Town, County & State Govts all of which have ever growing budgets, benefits & deficits. We have 100s of special districts sewer, water, fire etc. all gobbling public funds & opposing sensible consolidation. Then add school budgets to Main Streeters burdens & whenever they are voted down teacher salaries are never cut only the extra-curricular for the kids.

Another Govt. vs. private enterprise example would be compare the dreadfully managed U.S. Post Office which manages to LOSE billions every year to UPS or Fed-Ex. Big difference. Bottom line we have ever growing inefficient Govt. which is bankrupting our great country.. Will not mention Fda & Sec...but we all know what they are worth.

Unemployment in many parts of America is now over 10%, surely will grow with the Asian continued pac maning of American manufacturing. In many cases Asian wages are 1% of American wages, and Congress calls this "FAIR TRADE" Do people anymore seek to buy goods MADE IN AMERICA?...... T.V.s, calculators, blouses, cars, books, almost all commodities can be made cheaper with 10 cent an hour Asian labor.

Christmas is a time for happiness & gift giving..Amen...but notions of simplicity, fairness, humility, charity, hardwork & honesty should be threads for this holiday. Country needs leaders, not pariahs who seek to milk the system.

This holiday season & thereafter try to buy purchases "made in America", as the job you may be saving could be your own.

Barry up the road said...

Joanie,

Thanks for the insight. In testament to Dave Martin's desire for anonymity I have lived in this community for almost 40 years and did not know a fraction to what was contained in your essay.

Thanks.