#268: We Never Know
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Tonight I saw a distinguished older man at the restaurant where I was having dinner. Being a curious person, I wondered about his background. Had he been a captain of industry or had he worked on an assembly line for his career?
There's an interesting show on CBS TV called "Undercover Boss." Every week a different company chief executive goes undercover in his or her own firm to see what the business is like on the front lines and in the behind-the-scenes jobs. They work hard and quickly realize how demanding physical labor is, very much more so than working daily with spreadsheets and power point presentations.
But what is most intriguing to me are the relationships these top executives establish with the employees with whom they work. These top bosses all come to appreciate the real person behind these employees. They learn about their desires, their hopes and dreams and they often learn about the worker's families and the difficulties the employees face on the job.
All of the executives have come away from their experience changed people. The workers are surprised to learn they worked with the head of their company and, like the executives, recognize that we never know about another person until we spend time getting to know them.
Like the man at the restaurant or the woman we see at the mall or the kids joking around with a basketball, we never know the true person until we put ourselves on the front lines and say hi and engage them in conversation if time and the situation permits.
I recall one man in particular I happened to meet one day. I greeted him and asked how his day was going. During our ensuing talk I learned he was a Medal of Honor winner for bravery in World War II, a war in which my late father also fought.
Having been in the Army, I knew the special significance of the award our country had bestowed on this man and my eyes teared up. It was my privilege to shake his hand thank him not only for his service to our country but also for taking time to have a chat with a stranger.
My day was brighter and I hope his was, too, after we exchanged stories of my and my dad's military experiences, the places we'd lived and the bases where we'd been stationed.
It was an occasion that would not have happened if I had kept my greeting to myself.
But, as I said, I'm a curious person. I am eager to get to know better all of my current and future Spark friends. I'm eager to learn the life stories of the man in the restaurant, the woman at the mall and the basketball players.
For, when learning about others, we learn about ourselves and come away from our encounters more compassionate for those we meet.
As with the undercover chief executives, we never know who the next person is we say hello to. Most likely, though, they will be someone who will enhance our lives and leave us feeling happier for having reached out to another person.