I am sometimes overwhelmed in a crowd of strangers. If I anticipate being in a large gathering of people where I have any responsibility for leadership or involvement, I like to get there early and meet folks individually as they arrive. I do a better job of capturing names and committing them to memory if I can visit with the person one-on-one and repeat their name back to them in conversation at least three times.
When I arrived at the wedding rehearsal on Friday for the wedding I was officiating on Saturday, I made a point to get there early. There were only three or four people when I arrived. The groom and bride had not yet arrived, nor had their immediate family members. The first person I met was a man named Dave. I introduced myself and promised him I’d remember his name if I repeated it three times. He promised to test me on that the following day. Consequently, I repeated his name four times. I had it ingrained in my memory, but I still have no idea regarding Dave’s connection with the couple getting married. Sometimes folks volunteer that information, but Dave didn’t. In addition, I didn’t ask.
After meeting Dave, I met a lady named Brandi and a lady named Paula. Same story – “Let me repeat your names and I’ll remember them”. Three names down, how many more to go? I had no idea. A flood of people then arrived about the same time. There was a lady named Toni and a guy named Tony. Simple, I remembered them as sharing the same name, although they were not related. At some point, I met a man named Brandon. I mentioned to him that earlier I’d met a lady named Brandi. Brandon responded, “Yeah, I know Brandi.” He didn’t say anything else.
As luck would have it, when I arrived at the wedding on Saturday, I was an hour early. There were only three men in the outdoor open-air pavilion. The guys in the wedding party were beyond them passing a football to one another as the wedding photographer captured their activity with his camera. I looked in the direction of the first man I had met the afternoon before. He said, “Hello Don” and smiled. I knew that he was waiting to see if I really remembered his name. So, instead of simply responding “Hello”, I said, “Hello Dave, I told you I’d remember your name.” I then said, “And this is John, (father of the bride) and this is Brandon. Three for three! Impressive? Well maybe not, but I was pleased that I had remembered their names.
At some point, John and Dave were summoned elsewhere and I was left standing on the pavilion with Brandon. Actually, Brandon was setting at a table. I was standing, but he was sitting at a table looking at his cell phone. I interrupted by asking how he was connected to the wedding party. He said, “I’ve known them a long time. My wife was Kali’s best friend growing up. They lived across the back fence to one another as children. Immediately, I connected the dots in my head. Brandon’s wife was Brandi. I heard her story the day before. I smiled with the thought of Brandon’s disclosure the afternoon before when I said, “I had met a lady named Brandi”. “Yeah, I know Brandi”, was his reply. Indeed he did.
Following the wedding I had another opportunity to visit with Brandon while the wedding party was having pictures made. He asked, “What do you do?” Somehow responding, “The best that I can”, seemed inappropriate but that probably what I said. I went on to tell him about my work. I then asked about his work. His response captivated my attention. He said, “I own a sawmill. I also make furniture.” He had me hooked, I wanted to know more about his work.
I asked if he’d had always been interested in working with wood? He replied, “No, not really.” He went on to say that immediately following high school graduation he got a job working for a company that builds boat docks. He said, “I decided to wait before I went to college. I was just a welder, but I liked the work.”
If you know me, you know I couldn’t let that pass. I offered gentle redirection, “Don’t refer to yourself as ‘just a welder’. Do you have any idea what an incredibly marketable skill welding represents? If you can weld, you can do something I can’t do.” Brandon smiled and said, “I did go to Texas A&M later, but I became interested in working with wood from one of the men who worked building boat docks. I found out that he was building his own house. I asked him how long he had been building and he answered, ‘Ten years.’ I was interested and asked if he’d mind showing his house to me. He said, he’d gladly let me see it. It was incredible. The woodwork alone was amazing. I had never seen craftsmanship like that before. He built his own cabinets, did crown molding and the detail work throughout the house was amazing”.
Brandon shared that the reason his friend had been working on the house for ten years is that he understood the importance of living debt free. He saved his money and when he got enough accumulated to pay cash for the next step in building his home, he did so. Brandon said the craftsmanship in the woodwork caught his attention. He wanted to do something like that. He wanted to learn that trade. With his friend’s encouragement, he did”.
Brandon went on to say, “The man told me if I had my own sawmill, I could cut the lumber anyway I wanted and I could be very particular in the wood that I used”. He added, “It made sense to me. I decided to give it a try. Consequently, I make furniture and I mill my own wood. I really like the work”.
Brandon didn’t add that he was good at his trade, but I intuitively knew that “high end – high quality” workmanship was second nature for him. I asked for a business card and told him I’d pass it on to my daughter. She’s been looking for a coffee-table like the ones that he builds.
I told Brandon that I write a daily blog and asked if I could mention his story. He smiled and said, “Sure”. I am taking the liberty of adding his website. Hopefully Brandon won’t mind. His work is impressive. http://berdollsawmill.com
Brandon’s story is one that needs to be shared. It highlights the impact of following your dreams, doing your best work and never settling for second best.
All My Best!