The first day of school always started the same for me. “Abner Harrell” the teacher would say. (Even though I made sure to get to class early and request they use my middle name, David, when they called attendance). Every year it was the same story, all the way through high school. The first day of school would remind this guy, Chris Reed, of my first name and I’d spend the next two weeks relentlessly getting “Abner” cat calls. He’d soon forget about it and I’d go back to being “David” for the rest of the year. I did not like my name very much. I wondered why my father would give me his name, a name that belonged to his father as well. “Abner David Harrell.”
On the first day of college, my acting teacher called attendance. “Abner Harrell?” I raised my hand and saw the puzzled looks on the faces of my classmates. “Abner?” they asked. Then someone said, “That is cool, I like it. You are sweet Abner D!” And just like that, my first name became my identity. Throughout those years of college I was Sweet Abner D! I grew to like that nickname and began to connect with this name that I shared with my grandfather and my dad.
My grandfather, A.D. Harrell was a pipe fitter. They called him “rodburner” because he was so fast and good at his job he would fly through projects. He worked hard through tremendous adversity during the middle of the 20th century and built a life for his family.
My father, Dave Harrell, is a veteran, an entrepreneur, and small business owner. He started his own telecommunications business and through determination and grit found success.
These men I share my name with are shoulders for me to stand on; they are mentors and legacies for me to emulate my life around. Actually, if you go to the old Bickley Chapel in the midst of miles and miles of pine trees in South Georgia you will find many “Abner Harrells” who are buried in the cemetery. This name I have goes back to at least the mid-18th century in my family. This name I dreaded as a kid has a longevity and history that goes beyond just me, and once I stopped caring about what others thought, I found the power in it.
How often do we focus on perceived negative aspects about ourselves instead of finding the flip-side of possibility? How often do we care too much about what others may think or say? We all have challenges; we will face limitations and circumstances that are beyond our control, but we can take a moment to stop and look for the flip-side of these limitations and circumstances. If we take a moment to really investigate, we may find that it doesn’t matter what others think; we can find power within what we thought was a burden.
I am proud of my name, so proud I named my son Abner David Harrell, IV!! He just turned one-year-old this week. I look at him and hope I am able to give him my shoulders to stand on as he begins his journey in this world. I want him to know the history of where his name comes from, but more importantly, I want him to know he has the capacity to make his own journey.
As we celebrate the holidays and make yet another turn around the sun, let us take a moment to celebrate all of who we are; let’s try to find the power of our uniqueness and the beauty in all we do.
To you and yours, a very happy holiday and amazing New Year!