No. 464



When you die, other than your family and very closest friends, will anyone really care? This is a question that should cause any of us to stop and reflect on our own life for a few minutes. Unlike most, this is a question that we cannot answer ourselves, but will be left to those who knew us during our brief stay here on earth. It is brief, you know, and even though we may live to be over a hundred, in the grand sweep of time our life is only a whisper that will be heard in the halls of eternity. The reason the answer to my first question is so very important, is because it will be determined by the way we have lived our life and the contributions we have made to our fellowman.Hopefully, you or I won't be like some of the kings of Israel that I have been reading about in the Bible. It is often said, "He was not buried in the tombs of the Kings of Israel and the people were glad to see him go."

Back on May 21, 2004, when I learned about the tragic death of Sheridan Garrison, Founder and Chairman of American Freightways based in Harrison, Arkansas, I had a pain in my heart and my body felt like I had been kicked in the stomach by a mule. As you read these words, you probably did not know Sheridan Garrison, but he had some personal qualities that I deeply admired and I would like to tell you about some of them. My motivation for sharing this with you is two fold. First, I just believe we need to read or hear about people who have made a difference and their lives truly counted for something. It is also my prayer that reading about the life of Sheridan Garrison may inspire you to want to be the kind of person that he was. Of course, I realize that you may already be this kind of person.

From the beginning, let me say that while I considered Sheridan to be a friend, I had never socialized with him and was never a guest in his home. Our relationship began back in the early 1970s when I was selling the Earl Nightingale motivation programs on cassette tape. While I was in Harrison one day, I made a sales call on Garrison Motor Freight, a small trucking company that was based there. The late Ben Garrison, Sheridan's father, had started this company and was just one of many small, struggling trucking companies dotted throughout the country. Looking back, Sheridan certainly did not need any motivation tapes, but he bought a set from me anyway and we had a wonderful visit. Because of that early encounter, I always had a fondness for him and anytime I ran into someone from Harrison, would ask how he was doing.

Several years passed and then I began to see big, beautiful trucks on the road with the name American Freightways painted on them. I later learned the same man I had met earlier was now a major national player in the shipping business, and owned this freight company that served 26 states. Our paths crossed again about 1997 when our local Lions Club was selling peanuts at Christmas time as a fundraiser to help the blind. We were getting these two-pound bags of peanuts out of North Carolina and the freight was costing almost $1,000, which really cut into our profit.At this point I called Sheridan and asked if he could help us. He did!! His company hauled those peanuts for us for several years and it did not cost us a penny. That's the kind of man he was.

After a few years our club decided we wanted to make him an Honorary Member. We prepared a special tribute for this purpose and I called and asked him if we could come to Harrison to present it to him. We set a date and a committee from our club made the trip for this purpose. He warmly greeted us, and along with a number of his staff, took us out to dinner at a special little restaurant, where they serve trout fingers. Just good, gracious people. Because of his kindness and generosity, a couple of years later we prepared a very fancy, special recognition plaque and made another trip back to Harrison. We ate in his company dining room this time.

The thing that impressed me more than anything about Sheridan is that he never forgot his roots. When you were around him, he made you feel like you were the most important person on earth. Apparently he fell out of a boat in his private lake, but when he died, his net worth was estimated to be $312 million. He had recently sold his company to FedEx Freight. A few years before this sale, he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and because my wife, Viola, has Parkinson's, we had a common bond there. I had promised to go see him, but I drug my feet, and now it's too late. Sheridan Garrison will be missed by thousands of people who, like me, really cared about him. The world has lost a true humanitarian. Maybe on a smaller scale, but we could all be that, if we tried. (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)