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#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.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Excellent blog. Sometimes, just smiling and speaking to folks can open wonderful doors to great adventures. Thank you my friend. Kindness is always rewarded. Love, Dawn
    3994 days ago
    My father was also in the Army in WWII. Just reading your blog brought him to mind and tears to my eyes. Thanks.
    3994 days ago
    I admire you for being able to talk to people you don't know. You are gifted. Do you ever get a bad reaction from a stranger you try to strike up a conversation with?

    Sometimes I make the effort and other times I don't . I think I am too inhibited. I think fear was instilled in me from my Mother. Be fearful of strangers -don't talk to strangers etc. I am trying to overcome this. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Joy
    3994 days ago
  • no profile photo YW84FRIDAY
    Lou, this is soooo true! One of the things I love best about working at the local small town bakery is that I get the chance to meet all kinds of people. And what interesting stories they have! One elderly man told me he was the "State Freckle Champion" three years in a row as a kid. I asked him to prove it so he brought in a picture. YUP! He had a LOT of freckles. I ask the elderly couples to bring in their high school graduation pictures or their wedding pictures. I believe that EVERYONE has a story that is just begging to be told!

    I write for our church newsletter and every time I interview someone, they say "Oh I'm nothing special." And I tell them, sit down with me for half an hour and I can prove you wrong! One man in our congregation told about being in Korea and getting a shell to the head. He died, went to heaven, and then came back to tell everyone about it. It was a truly amazing story. My favorite one is when I interviewed a seven year old girl who was severely, multiply handicapped. She can't read, write, speak or sign. I had to interview her using flash cards. AMAZING!! She knew so much more than anybody would have ever guessed.

    Sometime I'll send you a copy of the stories. I'd love your feedback.

    Have an awesome day!


    3994 days ago
    Lou... talking about your experience with that gentleman and speaking of the service years of yourself and your father brought tears to my eyes. I am sure that man left feeling better too, as you did!!!

    I too enjoy watching the Undercover Boss and I agree, it is amazing the relationships that result from the upper-management to a bottom, or close to the bottom employee. It is great to see, and I would love to see all upper-management persons have that experience because I think it is very enlightening to them to see what is really going on in the business.

    Lou thanks for sharing all your experiences!!!


    3994 days ago
  • no profile photo CD4114015
    I am like you, Lou. DH always says, "you make friends everywhere you go!" But I learned it from my dad and I am glad that he taught me that one. I can see for you as for me, it makes life far more interesting!
    Thanks for another great blog.
    3994 days ago
  • no profile photo CD5002230
    This is becoming a new habit with me.

    I used to only speak when spoken to. But that left me at the mercy of others.

    Being the initiator has its risks (like everything else), but I'm finding much success. Breaking through the intimidation was not easy. It was well worth the effort! I wish I had learned sooner.
    3994 days ago
  • 0309COOKIE
    My mother is kinda like that. Can strike up a conversation with anyone. I'm a little more reserved.
    3994 days ago
  • KAYDE53
    I wish I could do that! My husband is the same way, he never meets a stranger, and everywhere we go, someone knows him or think they do. I've always been shy and I'm a little better now that I'm older, but not much. This was a great blog! emoticon emoticon PS I like that show too, Undercover Boss..it's really interesting to watch how people really treat other people!
    3994 days ago

    Comment edited on: 3/24/2010 11:43:02 PM
    You know, Lou, that is something really good about me! My entire family teases me quite often about how I can walk up to ANYone and begin a conversation with them, and I usually do! They talk about how embarrassing it is, how silly I look, etc. But I'll guarantee you... if we're lost, it's "Mom, you're good at this, will you go in and ask where we are?" or "Mom, can you see if you can take this back for me? It doesn't bother you to return things" and so on! I've overheard them on occasion say to their friends, "How did you already know my Mom? I haven't even introduced you?!" Ha!

    Thanks for giving me cause to stop and think about something I'm good at, and proud of! Lou, you're just great! emoticon emoticon Lori
    3994 days ago
    Another awesome blog! This is so true We all need to reach out to others and learn more about them and their lives. Especially as Christians we are to go out in the world and reach other people. We are not suppose to stay in our comfortable little groups of other Christians, or people we are comfortable with, and never reach the people in the world. Jesus told us to love the unlovely! I take that as people who are different from us, or with different beliefs than us. Look how much you gained by speaking to a stranger. God blessed you too!
    Thanks for blessing me with another awesome blog! Again you made me think!
    3994 days ago
    I am a people watcher. I love to sit on a bench and watch the people go by. From time to time, I have the opportunity to meet and greet the people I am watching. I agree...it is fascinating! I love the stories they have to tell. I will admit though, that I am not courageous enough to always start a conversation.

    I admire people who can talk easily to people they don't know. What a blessing to have you relate these inspiring stories.

    I have heard of that tv show you mentioned and wanted to watch the first episode, but we ended up not being home that night. I am looking forward to seeing it though.

    Thanks for another inspiring blog.

    3994 days ago
    God has blessed you with many talents and gifts, Lou. One of those gifts is reaching out to others. This is something I wish more people would do. The world would certainly be a better and happier place if everyone would take the time to speak, listen, and reach out to others. Thank you for another awesome blog!
    3994 days ago
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