Jimmy Hurley

A lot of people make a difference in other people’s lives. That’s the real juice in being a human being. And then there are those who are dedicated to it. Those who give their lives to making a difference.

That was Mr. Hurley.

I didn’t know him well, but I knew him all of my life and heard my mom talk about him a lot. Many people (including me) have a habit of complaining about their boss. My mom worked for Mr. Hurley for decades and everything she ever said about him revealed profound gratitude and respect and loyalty. A certain kind of bond happens in a working, creative relationship over many, many years. It’s love.

She told me many times of the secret things he did for people anonymously in order to solve a problem or make a difference.

When my father’s business closed and Dad was able to actually leave town for a couple of weeks, Mr. Hurley offered to send my parents on a trip so that Mom could write about it for the Salisbury Post readers. Mom picked a place that, I’m sure, she never would have thought she would ever go. China. Imagine that.

There’s a room in the journalism department at UNC named for my mother. The NC Writer’s Network annual Creative Nonfiction Competition is named in her honor. Both honors, and others, are well-deserved, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Mr. Hurley had something to do with making that happen.

Mom told me once that when the Post building was newly renovated, that she stood with Mr. Hurley at the window on the top floor, looking out onto Innes Street.

“It’s a dinky little town,” he told her. “But it’s mine.”

And that was how he used his life — being responsible for improving the lives of people in Salisbury. Some of the things he built bear his name. Most do not.

I remember when Catawba got new tennis courts. They had not had them for a few years and had no team. I had never seen Mr. Hurley watch a tennis match before, but he was watching that new team’s first match that day. He had had something to do with those new tennis courts being there.

“I think having a tennis team says something about being a good school,” he said.

That first day the new Y opened (the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA), I walked a few laps on the new track upstairs. He was there, walking.

“We looked around the country at Y’s,” he said. “This is the best in the country for a town this size.”

Jimmy Hurley was amazing. He passed away yesterday. And it is a dinky little town. And it is his.

sometimes pain gets delivered like the morning newspaper

sometimes pain gets delivered
like the morning newspaper

thrown on the driveway
chilled by pre-dawn
drops of night

it waits

morning walkers see it
they don’t care

those who sleep
don’t know it’s there

birds sing
they ignore it

cars pass
they miss it

it just waits

until suddenly
daring to reach that far

a hand
with raw nerve stretched
exposed to cold

strains to lift it

Counting steps while delivering Coffee News

My wife and I support the household by publishing Coffee News, a free, weekly paper — available in restaurants. It’s a franchise, and a fun business, and a good bit of work. We do our own graphics and printing, which generally takes the better part of our weekends. But we get to do this work at home, and we enjoy it.

steps delivering Coffee News on Oct. 1, 2009
steps delivering Coffee News on Oct. 1, 2009

For the past year, we’ve hired out our delivery. We’re still doing so in some areas, but times being what they are, many small business owners are watching their expenses and doing more of the work themselves.

We’re no different.

A few weeks ago, we started delivering our own papers in Salisbury — and last week we added the routes in Concord and Kannapolis. That’s getting close to 350 deliveries.

Knocked it out in two days last week. They were long days. This week, we’ll probably make it a three day job.

I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s given me a chance to see a lot of people, improve our distribution by adding new restaurants to the route, and improve the locations of our stands inside the restaurants.

I’ve also put out a lot of new stands, replacing many that were broken or dirty.

I’ve still managed to answer the phone and sell new ads.

But most of all, it’s good exercise.

My New Year’s resolution was to walk 10,000 steps a day in 2009. It’s October now, and I haven’t missed a day.

Once, I had a problem of some kind with my stomach. It gurgled and it hurt, all day. I spent most of the time on the couch, watching TV and sleeping. The walking was tough that day, but I still got the 10k.

Another day, I had a tooth pulled, took some pills for the pain, and didn’t think I’d feel like walking. I was surprised to find that I had a very nice walk in the woods that day. The weather was beautiful and I had a good buzz from the pills.

And there were those days, in the heat of summer, that I was out walking at midnight and the pedometer’s date changed to the next day — at midnight — before the device registered 10k. I still finished the steps, but it wasn’t reflected on the pedometer. I had to do a little math the next day in order to make sure I got the whole 10k and stayed on track.

In July, I got the bright idea to set the time on the pedometer two hours early. As long as I’m done with the steps by 2am, nobody knows the difference and the reading feels 100% legitimate.

Last week, both Thursday and Friday, I got well over 13,000 delivering our papers.

When I was working in the schools, as a technology facilitator, I often walked quite a few steps in the computer lab — and to various computers and printers in classrooms and hallways in the school building. I wore a pedometer then, too — and often registered between 6k and 8k steps per day.

I’ve gotten as few as 8k delivering Coffee News. Once, I challenged myself by deliberately parking a short distance from the locations and got 17k.

10k is a good number. 13k left me a little tired.