Forrest Gump had some notable lines in the movie of the same name. My personal favorite is, “My mama always said, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’ “
Adam Ragan was born April 3, 1984. His parents, Ken and Beverly, were young and healthy. There was no reason to expect anything out of the ordinary with this new addition to the family.
Adam’s delivery went fine. Ken and Beverly were thrilled with their beautiful son, their first-born child. They had no idea of complications until just prior to dismissal from the hospital. The doctor said there was a possibility that Adam had what today is called Down’s Syndrome. In 1984 the terminology was quite harsh. Six weeks later a blood chromosome test confirmed his suspicions.
I first met Beverly in the early 1970’s at Valdosta State College. I’ve known Ken for around 35 years, from his days as a car dealer in Unadilla. But I just recently met Adam. He, Beverly, and I visited in their Perry home. We sat around an antique oak table in Adam’s room. He sat near his computer, something he enjoys spending time on. He’s also a fan of professional wrestling, though he and Beverly disagree on whether it’s real or fake. I stayed outside of the ring. I asked how to spell someone’s name for the notes I was taking. Adam clicked on a company website, then turned the screen for me to see.
Beverly and I got sidetracked discussing Dooly County families that we share connections with. In a very polite manner, Adam finally interrupted his mother. He held up a hand and said, “My interview.” We laughed, knowing that he was right, and that he had been very patient.
I stood to stretch my back and Adam offered me his chair. It had a padded seat that would swivel and tilt. Beverly and I were in straight-back wooden chairs. I thanked him, but stayed where I was. I was impressed by his good manners and his generous spirit. I wondered if I would be that considerate to a guest in my own home.
Adam enjoys interviews. If you Google his name, you’ll find that he’s a celebrity. His brother, David, who is 18 months younger, is a well-known NASCAR driver. Adam is part of David’s crew and is his biggest cheerleader, plus he spends time with other drivers and competing teams. Carl Edwards gave Adam his first-place trophy from the Nashville Superspeedway in 2007, a hand painted Gibson guitar. Richard Petty gave him a specially designed cowboy hat and sunglasses. It’s a small group that wears a hat from The King. Around the oval tracks of racing Adam Ragan has a big circle of friends.
Ken called on his way home from work at Atlanta Motor Speedway. We left to meet him at Chick-fil-A, where Adam works three days a week. Adam rode with me. He told me where to turn, and made sure I noticed the traffic lights and stop signs. During our short drive he gave me his own Racing Hero Card. It has his autograph, several pictures, and some biographical information.
Chick-fil-A franchise owner David Grossnickel says Adam is an excellent employee. Adam’s work is more about pride than pay. Adam did, however, recently tell him that he thought he needed a raise. David explained the criteria for salary increases, then asked Adam how much he thought he should get. Adam said, “A million dollars.” Math is not Adam’s strong suit, but he compensates with his charm.
Jeffrey Preston is a good friend of Adam’s and the Ragan family. He took him to a University of Georgia football game in November. They watched the Bulldogs defeat the South Carolina Gamecocks. Jeffrey snapped Adam’s picture surrounded by a group of gorgeous young ladies. Adam gives credit to the AXE cologne he was wearing. He wouldn’t, however, guarantee that it would work for me.
Beverly and Ken grew up attending Henderson Baptist Church. Adam walked that same aisle in 2016. He assured them that he understood what he was doing. Beverly often finds him in his room reading his Bible. He reads rather slowly, which strikes me as perhaps more appropriate than my own sometimes hasty approach. The autographed card he gave me is near my Bible, a gentle reminder that I really don’t have any good excuses.
Adam Ragan is a blessing to his family, friends, and fans. I see in him some common threads with a child born in Bethlehem a long time ago. The blessings He brought were not what were sought, but were by His grace so much better. I was only looking for a story, but what I found was an unexpected blessing. In this Season of Hope, “You never know what you’re gonna get.”