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Look closely. Closer. That’s my family. Some of them I’ve known for years. A few of them I’ve only met tonight. But it doesn’t matter much. When you’re here, you’re family. Before I took this picture I thought, “my cup runneth over”. Cliche as it may sound, it’s how I feel. The culture in this place is second to none. We’re not perfect. We’re not your typical stock-photo ready crowd. (Case and point: that goofball in the back left with his hands in the air 😉 ) But man, it doesn’t get much better than this. I lean on these guys and gals. They motivate me, inspire me, give me purpose, make me laugh, sometimes they even make me cry, but the kind of cry that comes from living life side by side. Those kinds of cries make the laughs even better. That uncontrollable, deep, loud, hearty laughter that’s good for the soul.

In this picture alone are students, fathers and sons, small business owners, employees, professors, factory workers, and the like. Other pictures at different times in the day will include police officers, lawyers, corporate officers, carpenters, construction workers, roofers, office workers, pastors, musicians, photographers, and videographers. You’ll find Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Reformed Baptists, Atheists, Agnostics, Presbyterians, and Pentecostals. We have Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and everything in between. All of these folks find common ground within these walls. And all of us sit down with each other and spend an hour at a time laughing together, telling stories, ribbing each other over last night’s game, praying for each other, teaching, learning, listening, edifying, and just plain living life together.

This is the cigar industry. You’ll find a similar scene in shops and lounges across the globe, but this little corner of the planet is what I call home. This is my family. I can’t wait to see how it grows. You may be a Lynchburg Lifer, or you may join us for only a short season, but your place here will last a lifetime. We can be refined at times, and we can be rough-and-tumble at others. We can be quiet some days, and other days we can be loud. We’re not perfect, no. But we’re here, and we’re at it together.

Next time you see me, know that the grin on my face is one of gratitude for getting to see you one more time. Much love and thanks to you all and to God for bringing us together in this little place called William Alexander Tobacconist.