My late grandfather, Harold Patterson (“PawPaw”), has always been my hero. He was a community servant, a soldier, a banker, a brother, a husband, a father, and a grandfather. But, more than anything, he was both the best lover and best fighter I’ve ever seen. He stood strong for what he believed in and made sure those that crossed his path knew that he cared deeply for them.
When PawPaw met someone—anyone—he would end the conversation by saying: “by the way, have I told you lately?” The new acquaintance would inevitably reply with: “told me what?” Then, right on cue, PawPaw would say: “That I love you.” And, he meant it. I saw PawPaw do this—and have heard others recount PawPaw’s words—thousands of times. The immediate result was literally jaw-dropping. Who loves like that? The answer is simple—a true humanitarian.
It wasn’t just strangers that got this special treatment—he told his colleagues, clients, neighbors, friends, and family members that he loved them every time he saw them. A man who could love this tremendously and outwardly must be a softy, right? A big, giant teddy bear? Wrong.
Growing up with thirteen (13) older siblings taught PawPaw how to be tough. In high school, he once shoved wet cement in someone’s mouth for calling him a “son of a bitch”—he greatly revered his mother. If someone called him a coward, he would take them out back and prove them wrong. Later, when his bank was robbed, instead of hiding and waiting on the police, he personally chased the robber down, pulled him out of his car, threw him to the ground, put his boot on the back of his neck, and only then waited on the police.
PawPaw never started a fight, but he never backed down from one either.
These are the lessons that I am leaning on to get my family, my business, my neighborhood, and my community through this COVID-19 pandemic. We should all strive to be the greatest lovers and the greatest fighters this world has ever seen.
We need to love our family, our friends, our colleagues, our neighbors, and strangers stronger than ever before. People truly need it. People will need a lot of help from one another. People will need someone to talk to, someone to pray for them, someone to console them, someone to grieve with them. People will need help with food and supplies. Even those who have always seemed strong and squared away may start to break down physically, emotionally, or spiritually. No one is above needing help, and love is the answer.
But we must also be prepared to fight. We did not pick this fight with COVID-19, it picked the fight with us. But we will not back down. We will respect our opponent, but we will not be afraid. We will not be tempted to prematurely revert back to our comfortable ways of living and thereby risk the health, safety, and welfare of our neighbors and loved ones. No, we are prepared to do the hard things that this fight will require. We will dig in for the long haul. We will have grit. We will embrace the suck. We will keep going one day at a time. We will maneuver and shift so that the people that need resources will get resources. We will make sure healthcare workers have everything they need to fulfill their calling. We will support our grocers, restaurants, and others along the supply chain who are working tirelessly to provide us the goods and services we need. We will stay diligent and prepared, but we will not fall victim to anxiety and worry over things we cannot control. We will pray for our civic leaders, but we will not be afraid to speak up when we have something to say. We will recognize the fact that divisiveness is an ally of the enemy, and that COVID-19 is not a partisan issue. We will not allow politics or self-interests to enter the fray. No, we will fight this on the merits, and we will win.
PawPaw’s in Heaven, so this fight is now ours. COVID-19 is calling us all cowards and “sons of bitches,” so let’s go kick its ass. For those committed to the fight, I’ll love you forever.