I remember as a little boy going to work with my father. He was in the cigar-manufacturing business and was promoted to the plant superintendent when I was 7 years old.
Cigar-making became big business in the 1960s, once the surgeon general announced that cigarettes could cause cancer. I asked my dad why cigarettes were bad for you, but cigars were not.
He said, “They’re all bad for you, son, but many people don’t inhale cigars, so they are not considered to be as bad.”
I’m sure I had no idea what the word inhaled meant, and I learned later in life that Dad did inhale while smoking cigars, which led to his battle with bladder cancer. I always respected Dad for how hard he worked and the way he treated people, his co-workers and his customers. I never was too thrilled about the cigars because I couldn’t stand the way they smelled when they were lit. But I was fascinated by the big cold-storage rooms of tobacco leaves and the machines that actually made the cigars.
I would ride with Dad on a Saturday morning to Mahanoy City, where the plant was located, and spend hours walking through the plant with him. Each cigar machine had an operator who would work a foot pedal while making sure each tobacco leaf was in the proper place so the machine could punch it out and roll the cigar.
Dad got started in the cigar business by repairing these machines and making sure everyone on “the floor” was working to their potential and making a good product. He would stop by each operator and speak to her, check the cigars she was making, ask about her family and just made sure she had everything she needed. Each person we talked to would smile at me and say, “We love your dad. He is so nice and cares about us. He is a good man.”
Hearing that always made me feel so good. A son (and daughter) needs to hear things like that about their parents. It’s an important part of growing up in order to carry on the right ideals of doing well to others as you move into the adult years.
As I think about all the things Mom and Dad taught me, the most important was treating people with dignity and respect and being kind to everyone I meet. They modeled those behaviors for me and my sister.
They weren’t perfect by any means — none of us are — but they knew the importance of speaking to people (and I mean all people) and treating them with kindness.
With all the gadgets and technology we have today, I sometimes wonder if we haven’t lost the fine art of relating well to others. We have the means to communicate with each other better now than we have ever had in the history of mankind. And yet, we still find ourselves struggling with being able to convey our thoughts, feelings and ideas. Could it be that, although we have improved our means for communication, we’ve actually lost our ability to interact with one-another?
I think I will text my daughter and see what she says — or, uh, texts. You get the point.
DeLong is the executive director of The Suites at Station Exchange. Contact him at 912-531-7867 or go to thesuitesatstationexchange.com.