"You Ain’t Moses."*

Posted by jlubans on November 28, 2012

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I have next to me an inscribed copy of LaVerne Thornton’s new book, “You Ain’t Moses.” We’ve become friends since I wrote a column about one of the stories in LaVerne’s first book, “Walk in 'e Moon.”
He, by the way, reciprocated with an essay on servant leadership.
Our Internet friendship started in March of 2011. At the time, LaVerne was in Sanford, North Carolina and I was teaching in Riga, Latvia. Shortly after getting back to the USA we met at Virlie’s Grill in Pittsboro; it was the first of our several lunches there.
About a year ago, LaVerne decided to publish another book, a collection of two dozen stories from his adult life: lessons from business, family, church and travel, all anchored in the childhood values gained growing up in The Bend, a “lost” farming community on the state line of North Carolina and Virginia. The nearest big town is Danville. I’ve visited The Bend - guided by LaVerne - and it has not changed much from the time of the stories in the first book.
LaVerne e-mailed me chapter drafts and we’d go over them at Virlie’s. My role was not editorial – I did not want to edit, rather I gave LaVerne my impressions, telling him how I felt about the story and what it meant to me. I think that was helpful and probably a lot more valuable than my adding commas, suggesting different wording or merging sentences.
Fairly soon, Perry Harrison joined us. Perry, who illustrated LaVerne’s first book, brought new drawings to each of our sit-downs. We’d eat (pimento cheese on toasted rye bread for me) while we chatted about the pictures among many other topics, including LaVerne’s latest off-color joke(s). As you might gather, our meetings were not agendized like in the big city. Although LaVerne might have preferred for us to be more on task, we would often ramble. Perry is a self-taught artist – he told me he has drawn since he was in kindergarten – and a retired Superintendent of Schools for Chatham County, indeed one of the schools is named after him: Perry W. Harrison Elementary.
Perry draws for free (pro bono, if you will) – that’s just how he chooses to use his considerable gift. His sketches illustrate church programs, Kiwanis Club calendars and anything else someone can get him to do. I usually have a “Harrison” pinned up in my office. I revolve his art from the stack of photocopies I accumulated from our “editorial art” luncheons.
If you’ve read “Walk in ‘e Moon” then you will likely agree with me that LaVerne Thornton is a rarity among humankind. Well, “You Ain’t Moses” offers more evidence of his unique take on life, helping others and leadership. I admire him as much for doing what I’d be too timid or hesitant to do – he does not hold back – as I do for his way of doing it, with kindness, generosity, acceptance and humor. The book offers up numerous examples of his caring and courageous leadership.
If a street-smart reader thinks LaVerne is getting scammed in one of his big-city adventures, the reader still gains something from LaVerne’s genuine and heartfelt kindness to strangers. Even the most suspicious among us might be emboldened by what LaVerne freely gives to other human beings. Maybe next time, we’ll be less avoiding and more willing to help. While you won’t always agree with him, you’ll be impressed with his letting you know what he thinks and where he stands, like Will Rogers used to do.

*"You Ain’t Moses", written by LaVerne Thornton and illustrated by Perry Harrison is published by Chapel Hill Press, Inc. If you are in Pittsboro, you’ll find both books for purchase at Virlie’s Grill. Also, the new book is available right now from LaVerne. Send him a check for $13.85 ($12.95 + $.90 TAX). Free shipping! Write him at 209 Olde Towne Drive, Sanford, NC 27330

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