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Boyd’s Bicycle Shop, just off 7th Street in downtown Bristol, is a real-life present-day piece of Mayberry.
Boyd’s is not only a place of business, but a bona-fide Bristol gathering place (complete with loads of light-hearted fun and constant banter). The venerable Old Man Boyd operated this esteemed business for well over half a century, many of those years tending it right alongside his two sons, Hal and Marty, who run it now.
If you do business with the Boyds, no written contracts are needed. A handshake agreement will do just fine; and a handshake agreement is a very real type of grace in action.
My late father did business much the same way - by handshake. I remember him coming home one evening in the ‘70s, despondent that a business to which he sold typewriters had asked him to sign a contract instead of shaking hands. “Whatever happened to the value of a man’s word?” I heard him say.
So has the generally bygone method of doing business by handshake become an open recipe for lawsuits and crime?
On the contrary. People like the Boyds and my father may very well make lawsuits - and even crime itself - far less common.
What personal proof have I?
Well … about thirty years worth of teaching two thousand children by day - and a total of nearly that many jail inmates for two nights each week.
In fact, teaching at the Bristol Jail is where I learned the most about integrity. And I learned it not by doubting people, but by trusting them.
My incarcerated adult students were rarely trusted by anyone for anything - and who could honestly blame anyone for not doing so?
So I decided to try something radical - something called grace.