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FAITH: Overalls and hundred-dollar bills

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(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column of those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Augusta Press.) 

My father, Frank Harrell, was a furniture dealer in Tifton, Ga. for over 25 years. He was well known over the whole South Georgia area and people came from everywhere to buy furniture from “Frank.” Daddy was one of the most honest people I have ever known, and the reason people came to him was that they trusted Frank Harrell to be straight forward and honest in his dealings with them no matter who they were. He, according to another furniture dealer in Tifton, sold more furniture by himself that all the other stores sold together. Frank Harrell was a “selling machine” who would do anything which was honest and within reason to make a sale. One day at our two-story store on Love Avenue, I heard a banging upstairs that sounded as if it were going to come through the floor above. Lee Ferguson, who worked with us, and I wondered just what was going on up there. We knew that daddy had a man and his wife on the second floor looking at dinette sets and bedroom suits. The noise was so severe that I sent our long-time employee, Lee Ferguson, up the stairs to check on what in the world was going on. He came back downstairs laughing and shaking his head and told me that daddy was up in the middle of a dinette table jumping up and down on it to demonstrate how study it was. The people bought the set.

I remember that farmers were especially attracted to my father because of his honesty in dealing with them. There was a hog farmer who lived south of Tifton, on Hwy. 319 which went to Moultrie. He was well known for his hog farming. He came into our store one day and bought the largest refrigerator we had. It was when refrigerators first started having two doors with the freezer on the left and the cooler on the right. I remember that it was a burnished silver color. Well, this man had bought all of his furniture from my father for many years. That is the way the people in South Georgia were. The found someone they trusted, and they stuck with them. I remember that when he paid for the refrigerator which was a very expensive one for those days, he reached in the chest pocket of his overalls and pulled out a roll of one-hundred-dollar bills. I had never seen such a roll in my life! He pulled those bills off one at a time until he had placed eight hundred dollars in my father’s hand. One would never have suspected that he would have had that kind of money one him. Hog farming was good.

Well, one day this man came into our store, and he was obviously irritated. Of course, we asked him why he was so upset, and he told us that he had gone to an automobile dealer in Tifton to look at a new pick-up truck. He had worn his truck out on the hog farm and needed a new one. He had walked onto the automobile lot and was looking at trucks. Of course, he had on his working hat, his overalls and his brogan shoes. I also remember that he walked around with his hands tucked behind the bib on his overalls. The same bib that held all the hundred-dollar bills. Anyway, he stood around and stood around and no one came to see what he wanted. He went inside the showroom to look at a truck and no one paid him much attention. So, he went back outside and finally someone came to him, spoke to him and said, “what are you looking for” implying that, based on the way he looked, he did not think the man could buy a new truck and that the salesman was wasting his time dealing with this farmer. Our long-time friend told the man that he was needing a new truck and had always bought their brand but since he had been treated so disrespectfully, he would not buy from them if they were the only dealership in Tifton. He had always driven a certain brand of truck, but he told the salesman that he had been thinking of trying a Ford and that was what he was going to do. The salesman saw his error and tried to convince the man to stick with their product, but it was to no avail. The damage had been done.

When our friend and customer came into the store, he told us the story and asked who a good person would be to buy a truck from. We told him that the best car salesman in the city was Frank Hogan out at the Ford place, so he said that he was headed out there to by a truck. As soon as he left the store, I called Frank Hogan and told him that Mr. So-and-So was coming to see him. I related the story that the man had told us about his treatment at the other dealership and that he was going to switch to a Ford truck. I said, “Now Frank, he looks like he doesn’t have a dime but rolled up in the bib of those overalls is a roll of one-hundred-dollar bills and he will pay you cash on the barrel head for that truck.” He is one of the best people in the world. Just make him feel welcome and treat him with respect and you will sell a truck.” Well, in about an hour, Frank called us up and said, “Bill, you were right. I never saw so many hundred-dollar bills in my life. He reached into that bib pocket and got that roll of money and paid cash for the truck.” Frank was elated. In about fifteen minutes, the hog farmer came back to our store to show us his brand-new Ford truck. He was proud of it, and he thanked us for introducing him to Frank Hogan. He trusted Frank and bought other vehicles from him in the future. 

This little experience taught me never to “judge a book by its cover” and that we should never form an opinion of a person and have “respect” of persons. God gives us a word on this in Acts 10:34 when Peter said: “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.” The Lord goes on to say in James 2:9 that if we have respect of persons, we are committing sin. So, our Lord tells us that, in His eyes, every soul is of equal value to him and that we should not judge a person by his looks, his station in life, his education, his riches or anything else. We should always keep it in mind that every soul is precious to God and that it is not our business to judge others. We are not able to look deeply into a soul as God is able to do so we must be very careful about how we treat others based on external observation. This does not mean that we should overlook the evil works of many in our world today, but it does mean that when it comes to salvation and eternal life, we do not have the ability to judge and make a difference concerning people. Our society would be vastly different if everyone knew of and adhered to God’s Word about this issue. 

Our hog farmer friend was a wonderful fellow who was very prosperous even though he might not have looked so in his work clothes. The first car dealer lost a sale and a friend when he had “respect of persons” concerning him. Our hog farmer friend is a perfect example of what happens when one has “respect of persons.” One man rejected him because he perceived him wrongly while our friend went his way with his overalls and hundred-dollar bills.

Reverend William (Bill) Harrell has been in ministry 49 years. He served as the pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez, GA for over 31 of those years. He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also check out his blog at www.williamfharrell.com 

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