“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”
Arthur Conan Doyle
On and off over the years, one of my job responsibilities has been to speak to local community groups and civic clubs about our organization. I give a short speech, usually right after lunch or dinner, and then answer questions. It’s a great way to meet people from all over the city.
One day I was dispatched to a Rotary lunch meeting of about 50 men, many of them business professionals or retirees. After my presentation and Q&A session, an older gentleman approached me. He appeared to be in his late 70s, and he was well-dressed and well spoken.
He said hello and immediately began to tell me about his own career, how he had been a salesman for Sears & Roebuck some years ago. He said he had been quite good at his job selling appliances and home furnishings. In fact, he told me, one year he had been the top grossing salesman in the entire Southeastern United States. I smiled politely and told him I was impressed.
He then pulled from his pocket a folded newspaper article, dog-eared and yellowed from years of use. He handed the wrinkled paper to me. It was laminated. The article was about 40 years old and came from a small town newspaper in a city I don’t recall. The paper showed a black-and-white photo of a man in a white shirt and dark tie next to a headline proclaiming that Sears, Roebuck & Co. had just announced its salesman of the year. I read the short article, which appeared to be a news release issued by the company and reprinted verbatim by the man’s hometown newspaper. The older man smiled and spoke as if he had won this award just recently, then carefully took the article back from me.
The gentleman was very proud, and it was obvious the news in this article had been the crowning achievement of his career – and perhaps his life. In this gentleman’s mind, this paper represented the definitive statement of who he was as a man.
It made me think of my own eventual reflection: When I’m retired and a member of Rotary, listening to a young speaker, what will be on the piece of paper pulled from my pocket? What will it say about me as a man?
For starters, I hope the answer says something about me as a father, husband and friend, but what else?
I don’t have the full answer yet, but I’ve started thinking about the question…..