Have you ever ripped out a particularly inspiring clipping from a magazine or newsletter and tucked it in your diary, placed it somewhere around your desk, or even pinned it on the wall?
Back in 1998 I’d done just that. The beautiful and heart-warming piece I clipped came from ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work’ about a little boy in shabby and torn clothes, and the lesson learnt by a young lass in her father’s shop on cold North Dakota Christmas. For over three years it stayed neatly tucked in the back of my diary. Every now and then I’d re-read it, and I always chose to leave it there – it touched my heart so.
Then, in 2001 I was on a bus with a bunch of professional speakers from New Zealand, Australia, America and Canada. We were on our way to the famous scenic resort of Rotorua, New Zealand.
LaVonn and Dick Steiner from the USA sat in front of me, and from that trip a friendship and a collaboration was born. The fruit of that connection is ‘Getting A Grip on Leadership – how to learn leadership without making all the mistakes yourself!’ . (She liked my writing style and I liked her leadership knowledge – she’s a top American speaker and trainer on the topic.)
Three weeks after we’d met, and with LaVonn safely back in her home town, I happened to do another sort-through of the papers tucked in the back of my diary. The story about the shabby little boy fell into my hand again. I looked at the author’s name. That little lass was – LaVonn!
Here for you is that story, from p. 28 of our book – the chapter which talks about Role Models and Influencers.
We come by business naturally in our family. Each of the seven children in our family worked in our father’s store, “Our Own Hardware-Furniture,” in Mott, North Dakota. We started work with odd jobs like dusting, arranging shelves and wrapping; later we graduated to serving customers. As we worked and watched, we learned that work was about more than survival and making a sale.
It was shortly before Christmas. I was in grade seven and was working evenings, straightening the toy section. A little boy, five or six years old, came in. He was wearing a brown tattered coat with worn-out cuffs. His hair was straggly, except for a cowlick that stood straight up from the crown of his head. His shoes were scuffed and his one shoelace was torn. The little boy looked poor – too poor to afford to buy anything.
I thought ‘Hmmm, I bet he’s going to shoplift,’ and positioned myself to watch. He looked around the toy section, picked up this item and that, and carefully put them back in their place. …
Dad came down the stairs and walked over to the boy. His steel blue eyes smiled and the dimple in his cheek stood out as he asked the boy what he could do for him. The boy said he was looking for a Christmas gift to buy for his brother. I was impressed that Dad treated him with the same respect as any adult. Dad told him to take his time and look around. He did.
After about 20 minutes, the little boy carefully picked up a toy plane, walked up to my Dad and said, ‘How much for this, mister?’
‘How much you got?’ my Dad asked.
The little boy held out his hand and opened it. His hands were creased with wet lines of dirt from clutching his money. In his hand lay two dimes, a nickel, and two pennies – 27 cents. The price on the toy plane he had picked out was $3.98.
‘That’ll just about do it,’ Dad said as he closed the sale.
Dad’s reply still rings in my ears. I thought about what I’d seen as I wrapped the present. When the little boy walked out of the store, I didn’t notice the dirty, worn coat, the straggly hair, or the single torn shoelace. What I saw was a radiant child with a treasure.
Dad treated people right and his business flourished. His influence had a ripple effect far beyond that small community on the prairies of North Dakota.
Little did I know on that cold December night, I had just learned my greatest lesson in leadership. Respect has become my foundation principle in dealing with people. That night I learned from my Dad that everyone has worth and value as a human being.
Particularly on this ‘Random Act of Kindness Day’ consider how praise releases energy and uplifts and inspires others to go a little further.
Perhaps you have a ‘life lesson’ to share or have been the recipient of a ‘Random Act of Kindness’. Please feel free to post -we’d love to hear your story!