Buildings & Legacies

Feb 11, 2016 | Inspired by..., Quick Thoughts, The South, Travel


For more than forty years, my family has made the 443 mile excursion from North Decatur, Georgia to Daytona Beach, Florida. As I write this, I am thirty-six years old, so how did I come up with forty plus years? Well, the story began before I was born and goes something like this.

nelms at holiday inn

Nelms Family welcomed by Holiday Inn in Clearwater, FL.

In the late sixties my grandparents decided to begin a tradition. Every year, the family would take a vacation to Florida. First, the trips were to Silver Springs, Ocala, Clearwater, Clermont, Tampa, Sarasota and Orlando. They frequented a Holiday Inn to the point they made the marquee. Once they hit Daytona Beach, no other city was chosen as the destination. There was something special about Daytona Beach – relationships.

You see, in 1977 my aunt Polly had just started school at Stetson University in Deland, FL. While there, she developed significant relationships that still exist to this day. Those relationships did not only impact Polly, but the entire family. Now, every time we spend our annual summer vacation on Daytona Beach, we spend Sunday morning at a church in Deland to nurture those relationships.

The relationships did not stop there. My family built such a rapport with the hotel staff that they welcomed us warmly by first name. The relationships did not stop there either. I remember having breakfast at Bertie’s every year. We would begin to eat huge pancakes, but rarely finish. The staff would greet us and we would takes pictures for memories.


Staff at Bertie’s Luncheonette (2012)

berties 2015

Staff at Bertie’s Luncheonette (2015)

I am so grateful for this tradition. What started as a family of eight traveling south, grew to a caravan of eight plus vehicles of family and friends. These relationships have really impressed me over the years, but they are just a fraction compared to the impact my grandparents made at home.

nelms berties

Nelms Family & Friends outside Bertie’s Luncheonette

Even to this day, people continue to tell me how influential they were. Recently, I came across one of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution articles written about my grandad. It talks about his contribution and commitment to his community. The article inspired me to carry on his vision of keeping a diverse culture in that community. I recall an article written about him sharing history with kids in the community and another about the church in which he served faithfully. What a man he was.

staying put article

Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, featuring my grandparents, Wallace & Menona Nelms, entitled “Staying Put.”

Family was a significant value to my grandparents. Even if you weren’t a blood relative, you felt like family. That is something I still hear people share. Their house had a figurative revolving door where all were welcome. So many people frequented the neighborhood. I am sure my grandmother’s cooking also had something to do with it. People also knew my grandparents because of their gardens and gardening knowledge. They had such a reputation that my brothers and I easily obtained employment at the local nurseries. Pike Nurseries became home. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

I cannot drive far before seeing a new building being constructed. More homes, businesses, parks and restaurants are going up everywhere. I am such a fan of new that I appreciate all of the new construction. But something hit me the other day. Several years ago the same thing was happening, but it ended in half-built lots and shopping centers everywhere. ’Twas a sad sight. I began to think, “Buildings are cool, but I want to be a builder of legacies.” I want to help build people who build people. I hope people don’t have to drive or walk too far to engage with caring, authentic, selfless and loving people.

My grandparents were intent on building a legacy. The mission of building a legacy has been purposefully etched into my very being. I understand now why people mean so much to me and vice versa. I understand why I am a big picture thinker. I understand why relationships are everything. That’s what Jesus is all about. He wants an unconditional loving relationship with us all. That’s the most noteworthy attribute of my grandparents. They were not perfect, but they made sure you knew what the love of Jesus looked like.

So I hope to encourage you with this… In a world filled with selfish, vain pursuit of building things for ourselves, choose to build a legacy. Choose to leave an inheritance. Choose to plant seeds in people that flourish while you are alive and even more so after you are no longer. Choose to represent Jesus.

Enjoy Life!

header photo credit: Downtown Pittsburgh, Third Avenue, June 23, 2015 via photopin (license)