My Mom and Dad were the most influential people in my life. While I was a child, they took care of me, taught me right from wrong, and gave me the tools I needed to take care of myself. But, throughout my life, there was another adult who positively influenced me and helped me become the man I am today.
That was A.T. Andrews.
I first came to know Mr. Andrews when I was in elementary school in Waldo. He was my 4-H leader and one of the coolest people I’d ever met when I was the ripe old age of 10! He was always upbeat, fun, and he was the first adult I’d ever met that didn’t treat me like a kid.
Mr. Andrews had a manner that was unique and encouraging. Rather than telling me I was doing something wrong, he always shared a thought as to how I might do something “another way.” And, rather than correcting me in an authoritarian and demanding way, he made suggestions on how I could be more successful at what I was doing at that moment. Mr. Andrews would say something like, “Ben, do you suppose if you tried to do it like this, maybe it might work a little better?” This was his way of allowing me to decide if his suggestion would make my project better. His manner acknowledged that my idea had worth, and gave me the freedom to decide which way was best.
Of course, when I implemented his suggestions things always turned out better! But even when I completed the task the way he suggested, he never took the credit and never said, “I told you so.” He let me succeed and feel the success of a good decision.
Throughout my young adulthood, I kept track of Mr. Andrews. I admired him so much that when he retired from his position as an Alachua County Extension Agent, I hired him to work for my company. (At that point, I started calling him A.T.) And even though I was his employer, he treated me the same way he had treated me when I was one of his 4-Hers, which I liked very much! When he saw something I was doing that he thought might could be done a better way, he would just make subtle suggestions - never calling my ideas into question. And usually, he was right!
Even when things got busy and somewhat chaotic at an auction, A.T. always kept his cool and had a kind word for everyone. Sometimes, I would watch him coaching one of my employees the same way he coached me. And when that employee’s face would light up with accomplishment, I would smile and thank God for A.T. and the gifts he shared with others.
Over the years, I’ve made it a point to emulate A.T.’s thoughtful manner. I do my best to make suggestions instead of barking orders. My goal is to be respectful of the way others do things - even when they aren’t doing them like I would!!
A few weeks ago, a friend said, “I really am working on being as respectful of the way that other people do things as you are.” And I thought to myself, “That is A.T. living through me.”
A.T. passed from this life on February 6, 2015, at 90 years of age. And he left an amazing legacy of how to live a happy and peaceful life. He influenced me and countless others to be kinder individuals. When we live our lives in the same manner as A.T. did, we positively influence all the generations that follow and this wonderful man’s legacy lives on forever.