“. . . go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” John 15:16
Jack Hamrick was a grocer in the small community where I grew up, following in the footsteps of his father who had established the family enterprise long ago known as Hamrick Grocery. Jack was a good man, good citizen, and a good merchant, hard-working, kind, gentle and generous. In those days it was common practice for local merchants including grocers to sell goods on credit as most customers being farmers depended on harvest time to be able to settle their debts. It was in the early 1950’s when our rural county experienced a severe drought causing widespread crop failure driving many of the farmers off their land and small businesses to close their doors, leaving folks like Jack Hamrick with uncollected receivables. But Jack did what he could to carry his customers through those hard times. Some were never able to pay.
Eventually the economy did recover somewhat and Hamrick Grocery once again prospered in a modest way and continued to operate for many years until Jack’s health began to fail forcing him to sell out to a larger grocery chain. A few years later when he died many came to pay their respects. It was then that untold stories began to emerge about his goodness and generosity, including one gentleman who shared with Jack’s widow, Millie, that had it not been for Jack’s generosity during those dark times in the early 1950’s his family would have starved to death. Then there was the story about Ray Loftis who had once owned the local Piggly Wiggly, one of Harmick Grocery’s fiercest competitors. One year Ray was stricken with some serious health issues. Jack could have taken competitive advantage of the situation, but instead called his neighbor Ray to ask how he might help with the store while he was away receiving treatment. That’s the kind of man he was.
“It’s one thing to clear a piece of land, move the rocks, rake the soil, and protect it with a fence,” I read from a quote recently. “It’s another to bring it to life with berry-bearing bushes, exuberant tubers, vigorous vegetables, and many-splendored flowers.” Profits are not the fruits of a successful business. It is the good for which they are used that bears fruit – fruit that will last. That’s the lesson I learned from the life of Jack Hamrick.