Publisher’s Point: Grit And Gratitude

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

I just read the most remarkable story about an Alabamian by the name of Walter Carr, and thought to myself, “Can we clone this guy?” Just for the record, I am no fan of the concept of human cloning, but I think it’s reasonable to say that we could use a whole bunch more 20-year-olds like Walter. In the wacky world of social media, Walter’s dear story has gone viral, and it was his monster work ethic, integrity, and perseverance that that got him fame, a Ford Escape, friends, funding, and a Facebook following; none of which he expected, nor to which he felt entitled.

What did Walter do? He walked all night (to the tune of 20 miles) to get to his first day of work as a mover, and then worked all day without complaining. Why did he do it? Walter and his mother lost their New Orleans home to Hurricane Katrina back in 2005, and they moved to Alabama. Having suffered such loss and heartbreak, Walter was determined to succeed in life. But, he desperately needed the money from this job; he had just rented an apartment and his car had broken down. So he got resourceful in the way that folks did during the Great Depression. The 21st century version is that Walter went online and calculated how long it would take to walk from Homewood to Pelham, and Google estimated 8 hours. Walter had run cross country in high school, and felt confident that he could do it in less time than that. His friends freaked out and begged him not to do it, as walking all night anywhere these days can be risky, even for a guy.

However, Walter had given his word to his new employer, Bellhops Moving Company, that he would be there, and he was going to show up, come hell or high water, and on time at that.

Walter armed himself with a small kitchen knife and a baseball to throw at potentially marauding dogs, ate some bologna and eggs at 8 p.m., took a 4-hour nap, and got on the road at midnight. A few hours in to it, he needed to toss the ball to distract a dangerous dog and kept going. He hit Hoover at 2 a.m. and made it to Pelham by 4:00 a.m., then sat down to rest for a bit because his legs were burning. He still had a ways to go. A policeman pulled up, saw him sitting, and asked if he was ok. Walter explained what he was doing, and the cop basically said, “Hop in.” Officer Knighten took Walter to get chicken and a biscuit, and Walter explained that all of his cash had just gone to paying rent. Knighten insisted on treating Walter to not just one but two meals from Whataburger, and after they ate, dropped Walter off at a church parking lot. Knighten had to get his cruiser “back to the ranch” because he was due to go off shift, but not before he let other officers know what was going on. Because Walter had no idea if any of them were going to be able to break away and come get him, he decided to set off on foot again at 5:30 a.m., just to be sure that he would be on time.

Officer Al Duffey saw Walter walking on what truckers call a “skinny road” (meaning that it was two lane), pulled up next to him, told Walter that his trek had gone out over the police scanner, and that he was here to get Walter to work. Duffey drove Walter the last 4 miles, and he arrived before the rest of the crew. The “lady of the house,” a woman named Jenny Lamey, was a bit curious as to why one of the movers was being delivered via police cruiser, and the story was told. It brought her to tears, and she just wanted to let Walter sleep, but he insisted on working his shift. Then, Walter shot hoops with Lamey’s three sons, ages 16, 13, and 11. Her response? “I can’t imagine what kept him going.” What came over him physically was supernatural. I think God helped him through. He’s such a humble, kindhearted person,” she said, and then added, “He’s really incredible. He said it was the way he was raised. Nothing is impossible unless you say it’s impossible.” One of Walter’s new co-workers gave him a ride home, and the next day, still more blessing was in store.

Walter’s new boss and CEO of Bellhops, Luke Marklin, got wind of his grit and called Walter to tell him that he wanted to express his gratitude in person. Walter agreed, and Mr. Marklin handed him the keys to a 2014 Ford Escape that had been driven very little. Marklin simply said that Walter had blown him away. Then, as if this isn’t enough, Ms. Lamey started a GoFundMe account for Walter that as of this printing has raised more than $44,000. So far Walter has been interviewed by the Washington Post, USA Today, CBS News, WAPI Newstalk 99.5 in Birmingham, and I hope he’ll consider coming and hanging with us at WKAC. Everybody who has met him says he is a humble guy, and I think it’s fitting to close this Point with Walter’s own words: “The lesson of my story is it’s great to reach people, I always wanted to inspire people,” he said. “Don’t let nobody tell you you can’t do something. It’s up to us whether we can.” And all God’s people said, “Amen!”