What does it mean to be classy? We have all heard said of various people, “They are a person of class” or “They are a classy individual.” We all have known people who are classy. Being classy is one of those character traits we might find hard to define, but we know it when we see it.
The dictionary, among several definitions, defines “classy” as “having qualities that makes someone or something special; showing impressive character; of high quality; very good or kind.” Being classy is a characteristic we all need to exhibit in our lives.
This past weekend I was privileged to witness the word “classy” firsthand. Let me set the stage of how I came to witness “classy” in action. Back last year I began writing a book that came to be titled, “Bitter Tongues, Buried Treasures.” It was the biography of Col. Martin V. Mabe (1838-1918). Col. Mabe was a Civil War veteran from Stokes County, a Civil War POW, and after the war was a colonel in the NC state militia that fought against the Ku Klux Klan. After the war, as the result of hard work, he became very prosperous, a large land owner, become a leader in Stokes County and North Carolina politics, and was a United States Commissioner. He was one of the most interesting, intriguing and influential men in Stokes County history.
When Col. Mabe died in 1918, one month shy of this 80th birthday, he was buried on a small knoll on his land beside his housekeeper, Nancy Jane Mabe (1844-1916), who was his first cousin. The two graves were enclosed within a forty by forty foot wrought iron fence. Over the years the graves have been neglected, being overtaken by undergrowth and the intrusion of tall trees.
As a result of the wide circulation of the book, the story of Col. Mabe came to the attention of Boy Scout Troop 230 from Greensboro, NC. Patrick Bell, looking for an Eagle Scout Project, chose as his project to clean-up the grave sites of Col. Mabe and Nancy Jane Mabe. On Saturday, December 12, 2015, Troop 230 and their leaders gathered to make the project a reality. For about six hours, on an unseasonably warm December day, those young men worked cutting trees, clearing brush, raking debris, and hauling dirt. Through much sweat they transformed the cluttered gravesite into a sight that one would have had to have seen beforehand to truly appreciate. Laboring all morning long and all afternoon, shadows were stating to grow long as the sun began retreating behind the Suratown Mountains.
After a long day of satisfying work, as the weary teenage boys were packing up everything to begin the hour drive back to Greensboro, I witnessed a sight that touched me at the core of my deepest emotions. I would have loved to have taken a picture of what I saw, but I was frozen in respect and dared not intrude upon such a moment.
You ask, “What happened?”
As the boys were getting in their vehicles, I watched two young men come back, one at a time, standing at erect attention at the gate of the fence and facing Col. Mabe’s grave, they saluted him. They didn’t do it to be noticed. They didn’t even know I was watching or if anyone else was watching. They saluted him out of respect for a man who deserved the respect. While the moment became frozen in my mind, my eyes became moist with warm tears. I was privilege all day to witness classy young men work to carry out a task and reach a goal. In their saluting at the foot of Col. Mabe’s remains I witnessed “classy” carried to an even higher level.
After everyone else left I stayed behind to be alone at the grave to meditate on what I had witnessed all day long and what I had witnessed in the saluting of Col. Mabe. I couldn’t help but think, “If all young people are as classy as the ones from Boy Scout Troop 230, then the future of this country is in good hands.”
Being “classy” is not determined by age, but by the character of one’s heart. And in the midst of the Christmas season I am thankful I was gifted the opportunity to witness “classy” demonstrated before my fortunate eyes.