What Characters Do

“I went to school in upstate New York and graduated magna cum miracle. I didn’t make the top half of my class, but I was one of those who made the top half possible.” — H. A. Thompson

More of him later.

My friend Chris, a lawyer of the female persuasion, is taking some seminary courses. Her pastor asked, “Are your just doing that for fun or are you working on a degree?”

Until that moment, Chris did not know those were her only two choices. (What about, “To improve my mind? To grow in my understanding of God’s Word?”)

Since she owns a bachelor’s from college and a doctorate of jurisprudence from law school, and without plans to go for ordination, Chris has no special need for a master’s in theology or divinity. So, she said, “For fun.”

The pastor teased, “You’re going to seminary for fun? Chris, you need to get out more!” They laughed.

I told her, “Seminary can be fun — depending on your definition. If you enjoy a great challenge, get a kick out of pushing yourself to the limit, balancing unreal schedules, and such, you’ll have a ball!” My best memories of the five years I spent in theological school center around great class times with outstanding professors and casual discussion times with classmates.

My friend Danny is the administrator at our church and owns bachelors and masters degrees in fields related to his earlier career which was managing plants for Dow Chemical and Union Carbide. Last year he took early retirement and went to work at the church. These days, he is enrolled in New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, working on a masters of arts in worship leadership.

I asked him why.

“I’m trying to stave off Alzheimer’s!” he laughed. I said, “I do Sudoku for that reason.” He said, “It would be cheaper!”

“I’m trying to learn some things. Systematic theology makes my brain hurt. But I want to learn more of God’s character and build more of that in my life.”

“My role at the church is not necessarily ministerial,” he adds, “but I’m kind of a paraminister. These courses will give me some equipping I don’t already have.”

In some ways, Danny and Chris are taking seminary courses for the same reason my father, a coal-miner and farmer, once took a correspondence course in becoming a detective: just to learn about a part of life he found fascinating and wanted to know more about.

H. A. Thompson is a character you ought to know.

Two decades ago he was the most popular radio talk show host in Charlotte, NC, and according to some polls, in America. When management decided to stir up the pot, H. A. found himself without a job. But he never missed a beat. He began a limousine service in that city, a company he called “Rose Chauffeured Transportation, Ltd.,” named, if I remember correctly after his mother Rose. To say he has done well is an understatement.

Now, H. A. is a thinker and a talker. On my infrequent visits to Charlotte, when he and I go to lunch together, no one can get a word in edgewise. He has a hundred ideas an hour and friends of all stripes in every part of this country. His atheist friends and his preacher friends and everyone in between pelt him with thoughts and ideas and he returns in kind. There’s never a dull moment around him.

Now, H. A. Thompson has written a book. “If You Want Something You Don’t Have…” is the title of the book at the top of the page. At the bottom underneath the great painting of the golden eggs in a nest atop a rock obelisk is the rest of that line: “…You’ve Got to Do Something You’ve Never Done.” It’s a collection of H.A.’s insights about life and managing people and successful entrepreneurship, peppered with terrific stories and great illustrations of people and things.

Here are a few quotes, some his and some he attributes to other sources, but all worthy of reflection….

“The ships that come in while we sit back and wait are mostly hardships.”

“Asking for help is never a sign of weakness. It’s a signal that you’ve learned the secret to success.”

“Luck is hard work cleverly disguised.”

“‘Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff’ is a popular book, but it’s a bad philosophy for your business…. At my company, we built our successful operation on the small stuff.”

“People forget how fast you did the job—but they remember how well you did it.”

H. A. mentions some of the unusual (and well-known) people he has known over the years, and asks, “Where have all the characters gone?” He adds, “You remember them — flashy people that boring people loved to talk about!”

I’ll deign to answer that, friend. They’re still around. You’re one of them, H.–you and Chris and Danny, and I hope, maybe myself too. To be considered an authentic character, well, that’s about as good as it gets in my book.

Until recently, I always thought of characters as belonging to my father’s vanishing generation. One day it occurred to me that what we think of as a character is simply an original, someone whom there is no one else like. One of a kind. When this one is gone, he/she leaves a void which no one steps into because they cannot. They too are originals and must fulfill their own destiny, live up to their own assignment.

Sorry…I stopped for a bit to read the rest of H.A.’s book… Now, where were we?

Readers know I don’t mind recommending a book now and then. Being a realist, I know that many of us read only about 80 pages of any book we own, no matter how good or well-written. So, here’s what my friend H. A. Thompson has done…and you’re gonna love him for this….

He wrote only the 80 pages you would have read anyway, and left out all the other stuff you would not have read. Buy this book and give to anyone in the service industry, anyone who waits on customers or is trying to sell a product. Give it to your pastor and he’ll do two things: he’ll read it through during lunch and come away with a dozen sermon illustrations and a half-dozen ideas for your church.

Incidentally, if you have a friend who has never read a book in his life, buy this one. He’ll read it, I guarantee, and thank you for it.

H. A. Thompson’s website is http://www.rose-limo.com, and his toll-free number is 800-377-6912. The mailing address is 11325-A Nation’s Ford Road, Pineville, NC 28134. H. A. tells me the book sells for $9.95. I

1 thought on “What Characters Do

  1. Joe, you are so kind. Thank you for enjoying my book and sharing your feelings with your large network of friends.

    With heartfelt gratitude,


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