Beyond the Build

Customer Relationships

A Prairie Home Companion and the Value of Time Away

As important as office presence may be, I’m a firm believer in pockets of downtime. A break from email and task-oriented duties, however small, always brings me back to a top priority: family and friends.

When a customer (who I also count as a good friend) invited me to join him and his wife at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, I accepted without hesitation. The plan was for an evening enjoying A Prairie Home Companion. I brought my daughter, a senior in college, as company.

Sitting three rows back from the stage was unbelievable.

I have long been a fan of Garrison Keillor and his show on National Public Radio. A Prairie Home Companion is a variety show of down-home humor and thoughtful monologues on life, with spirited musical performances sprinkled throughout. The shows are loosely set in the author’s fictional boyhood home, where “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking and all the children are above average.”

A few years ago, I was fortunate to meet Keillor during a trip to his real home of Minnesota, but I had never seen him on stage. It was a pleasure to attend the 1,280th show of his career.

Emmylou Harris, a Birmingham native, sang eloquently about a friend who had passed away from cancer recently. There was not a dry eye in the house. Sam Bush showed off his mastery of the mandolin, and Pat Donohue demonstrated why he is considered to be one of the world’s greatest fingerpickers. We had a wonderful time. (Images from evening on our Weekend Collection at FlickR)

Back at home, whenever I listen to A Prairie Home Companion on the radio it reminds me of that delightful evening in the company of friends and my daughter. It’s an experience that was well worth the time away from corporate duties. Definitely “above average.”

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.