Ned Vandiver loves his walk. He strides with purpose, like a man on a mission. Actually, he is.
While driving up Fayetteville, Georgia’s Redwine Road one sunny mid-morning, I noticed this man walking on the adjacent cart path waving to every car that passed. You couldn’t miss him.
His wave is not just a casual raising of the fingers from the steering wheel, the highway courtesy you see when you meet a driver in the rural South, or in small town America. It’s an energetic gesture, with his arm fully extended, moving from one side to the other, like a windshield wiper in full motion. He catches every driver.
Ned got it from his mama.
“She was a walker who waved at whoever she saw. I just picked up the habit.”
He’s serious about his cardio, but he aims at a bigger objective.
“Our nation is so divided and off track with racial prejudice and other division. I wondered what I could do to promote love, peace and unity. I felt God told me to wave. Don’t worry about the ones who don’t wave back. Every wave comes from the heart.”
Mother’s ‘great example’
Ned, a Methodist, grew up in Anderson, South Carolina, working hard on his uncle’s nearby farm picking cotton, chopping tobacco and milking cows from daylight until dark. His mom was a dietician who supported four children. His dad had a stroke and eventually left the family.
“My brother and I started shining shoes at two barber shops, one white and one Black. We gave every dime to my Mom. She somehow bought us shoes and clothes and kept us clean. She never went on welfare. She was an amazing Mom who set a great example. It was not a cake walk. We had some rough times, but I’m very proud we made it on our own,” Ned said.
Ned attended junior college in Rock Hill, South Carolina, before transferring to Morris Brown University in Atlanta. His studies were interrupted when he was drafted into the U.S. Army for two years. When he got out, he returned to Anderson, where he worked in the mill before landing a job in collections with a television rental business. Eventually, he took a job with General Tire Company and learned the automotive services industry.
He ended up with Firestone and Rubber Company as an assistant manager. The company sent him to Charlotte for a management training program and then placed him in a store with another manager. He rose through the ranks until he supervised 15 Firestone stores under him.
Then came a major step of faith. He bought his first Express Oil Change business.
“They gave me the worst store you could get and couldn’t believe the volume. We turned the store around in sales and production. I was a work horse. I ended up with three stores.”
Second Chance Ministries
He and his wife Mary began Second Chance Ministries to help those needing assistance. About 50 percent of his hires had a criminal record. Some stole from him, others lied to him and many employees didn’t make it, but he helped where he could.
Eventually came retirement, golf and his ministry of encouragement.
Ned desires to live out what pastor Tony Evans recently asked his Wednesday night Bible study participants at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, “Am I a reconciler, or am I a combatant? Am I contributing to what God has done for me, bringing harmony where there was conflict, or am I one who keeps the fire (of division) burning?”
Ned said, “I wanted to know ‘what could I do?’ It’s not about me. It’s about my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I’m trying to be a good neighbor and do what I can to bring people together. It’s a shame we can’t come together as one.
“A house divided cannot stand! You’ve got to love your fellow man and you cannot be prejudiced. Racial prejudice is learned.”
So, he shares the love.
“That’s the reason I wave. If you feel like I feel when I wave, you’ve got to know you love that person you’re waving at whether he cares for you or not.”
Psalm 133:1 reads, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity.” Ned is certainly doing his part.
Editor’s Note — David L. Chancey is pastor of McDonough Road Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Georgia. Visit www.davidchancey.com to read more of Chancey’s writing.