Sometimes you can learn a lot if you just listen. Actually, for some of us that may be the way we learn best. If we do all the talking, we’re probably hearing what we already know. Listening to yourself talk can also be boring. So I try to listen more than I talk, figuring and hoping someone out there knows more than I do about most things.
This past weekend I spent an evening and night with two good friends in the Wrightsville ghetto. Coach Willie Green and his wife Linda were good enough to put me up as I was on my way to Savannah.
For dinner we had T-bone steak, baked potato and salad with strawberry shortcake for dessert. Linda did the cooking and they appear to be eating well. When I listen to the Greens I mostly feel better. So I listened as this former school administrator told me about making decisions, climbing up “fools’ hill” motivation and “Roscoe” the belt.
Of course I used to wonder about the ghetto thing (before I ate there), but he’s told me it’s home and where he feels he can do the most good. Smart, articulate and charismatic, with a daughter who teaches molecular biology as a Ph.D. at UGA, this man has been a major influence in how I view the world.
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Someone must have said, “Intellect without purpose is wasted.” You’ll find none of that with Willie Green. And although retired, he currently works in their “yard” (one that rivals Callaway Gardens in beauty), for Linda, who is a caregiver at a local nursing home and the crown jewel of the family.
I have witnessed first-hand, since the day I attended their wedding 20-odd years ago, how this woman has been an influence for good in his life, making him return every cent he beat me out of in poker when he knew darn well I didn’t know how to play and he did. Well, maybe not actually return the money, but she darn sure gave him a look.
Willie grew up monetarily poor, with a father who drove a truck and a loving mother. He and his brother (Ernie Green, Cleveland Browns) were lucky enough to attend Catholic School in Columbus, where they received discipline and a good education. Yes, they also played a little football. But they were held accountable by their parents and the nuns for the decisions they made during those years.
His father would talk to him about going up “fools’ hill” and how each decision you made would contribute to success or failure. “I see a lot of folks here still climbing up that hill” Willie said.
We talked about current issues and I had to bring up the subject of entitlements and the question of whether or not the federal government is too involved in our lives. He told me there are thousands of people in Georgia who cannot make it without help and thousands of other folks who, if they have a dime at the end of a day, would roll over dead. “They live from day to day” he said. “What’s the answer?” I asked. “I don’t know, but whatever it is, it has to start in the home,” he replied. “We were raised with discipline, taught right from wrong and work ethic. We became motivated; my father didn’t play when it came to discipline. You don’t see that much anymore.”
Now enters granddaughter Tanijah, 4-years-old, with an attitude. She’s visiting for the weekend, along with T.J. her brother and they’re having “issues.” With a nod to Linda, Willie says, “Go get Mr. Roscoe.” Needless to say, the issue was quickly settled and while I never saw “Mr. Roscoe,” I doubt Tanijah has either. It only took the idea.
Willie Green is a man at home, in charge, comfortable in his surroundings and worth listening to. Did I mention he was African-American?
Sonny Harmon is an educator at Georgia Military College. Visit his blog at http://sharmon09.blogspot.com.