"Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath. Every moment is the guru." -- Charlotte Joko Beck

Friday, May 29, 2020

Coffee, Tea, or Leadership?

Not too long ago, my wife and I participated in a local flea market in the parking lot of an antique shop.  As requested, we arrived at 6:00 a.m. to set up for the event, which was to start at 8:00. While we were setting up, other vendors pulled in and began to get their own goods in order. All of us were tired, cold, and working hard to meet our deadline to be set up. 

Soon a young girl came around to all the booths, offering free banana bread muffins to the vendors and letting us know that there was free hot coffee and tea in the shop. She made several passes, always with a quick and warm smile. When someone said “thank you,” her response was always an enthusiastic “you’re welcome!”

A little later in the day, this same young lady stopped by to look at a couple of things we had available at our booth. First, she noticed an antique camera. She didn’t even know what it was (film and flashbulbs!), but she knew that her mother likes cameras. With a few dollar bills in her hand, she asked how much it was. My wife said gently explained that although our prices are negotiable, "it’s probably still out of your range.”  The girl thanked my wife and walked away.  We were to find out later that she went straight to her father to ask how one negotiated for something they wanted. Her father explained how it worked, but persuaded her that as thoughtful a gift as a camera would be, her mom would be just as happy knowing that the girl had thought of her.

Later she came back and was transfixed by a doll we had at our booth.  She asked how much it cost.  I said, $10, but for you, we’ll take $8.  She thanked me and again walked away.  Several times throughout the day, we saw her walking around the flea market with her two younger brothers in tow.  She came back periodically to tell my wife about her progress in trying to sell a few things in order to afford the doll.  Her last report was, “I just need to sell two more things and I can get the doll!”

Interestingly, the doll was Emily the Entrepreneur. How appropriate!

About an hour after that final report we saw our little would-be customer with her two younger brothers, both clutching ice cream cones. We thought, “Well, there goes our sale!” Later we were to learn so much more about this little entrepreneur with a heart of gold…

We decided that since she was working so hard and had been so caring about everyone other than herself, we wanted to give the girl the doll she had so admired as a gift. We couldn’t find her, so we put out the word to others. Soon a man approached us. It was the young lady’s father, who wanted to thank us.  He told us about how he tries to instill in his children, the importance of being considerate of others, and explained how proud he is that his daughter is always thinking of her brothers, parents, and others before herself.  He said that she denied herself the pleasure of the doll because her brothers wanted ice cream and had no money of their own to buy it.

He came back later he told us something that really struck a chord. He said that when he got home and surprised his daughter with the doll, he explained that she received it as a reward, not because she was successful in selling things that day, but because she had been recognized as a GOOD PERSON, and had made people happy by her words and actions.  He said (with a proud tear in his eye) that his daughter looked up at him and said, “I’m just trying to be like you, dad.”

We teared up, too.

And so it goes… being a leader (whether it be of a family, of a company, of a team or troop), your actions and how you represent yourself matters and has a ripple effect on those around you.  From father to daughter to brothers, this family unit shows us that by sharing your beliefs, communicating their importance, and acknowledging others’ accomplishments, you can light the TORCH in others, encouraging them to share their own passion with those around them. 

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