COMMENTARY 865.1: I Just Talk to People

by Michael Josephson on January 31, 2014

in Attitude, Caring, Compassion, Commentaries

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Marta was a hard-working single mother. When her minister sermonized about “living a life that matters,” she worried that working to raise her kids and going to church wasn’t enough. So, on the bus to work she made a list of other jobs she could do and volunteer work she could try.

Sylvia, an elderly woman, saw the worry on Marta’s face and asked what was wrong. Marta explained her problem. Sylvia said, “Oh my, did your minister say you weren’t doing enough?”

“No,” Marta said, “But I don’t know how to live a life that matters.”

“You don’t have to change jobs or do more volunteer work,” Sylvia consoled her. “It’s enough that you’re a good mother. But if you want to do more, think about what you can do while doing what you already do. It’s not about what you do, but how you do it.”

“You don’t understand,” Marta said. “I sell hamburgers. How do I make that significant?”

“How many people do you deal with every day?” Sylvia asked.

“Two to three hundred.”

“Well, what if you set out to cheer, encourage, teach or inspire as many of those people as you could? A compliment, a bit of advice, a cheerful hello or a warm smile can start a chain reaction that lights up lives like an endless string of Christmas bulbs.”

“But that’s just being nice,” Marta protested.

“Right,” said Sylvia, “Niceness can change lives.”

Marta looked at the old woman. “What do you do?”

“I was a housekeeper until I retired,” Sylvia said. “Now I just ride the bus talking to people.”

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Belk @ethical behavior January 15, 2013 at 3:25 pm

We rarely believe our job is adding value to the good of society. The truth is a lot of people are counting on you to make those burgers the best way you know how, to scrub that floor until it shines, toss them their newspaper.

There are no meaningless task. There is always someone counting on you to do your job. I was a correctional officer. I was rarely seen by the public, but so many people were counting on me to do my job.

If a criminal escaped it would be front page news, but because no one did I could hear the thanks every time a child got a good night sleep.

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Marie O'Brien February 7, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Thank you Michael,
I have terminal cancer. Many people have come to see me and to my surprise thank me for having been there in their time of need or for some word of encouragement or complement. The astonishing part is that I don’t even remember a fraction of the cases. Two I do recall: A young mother told me she wanted to separate from her husband who was somewhat aggressive and hadn’t spoken to her for weeks.’ I advised her when he arrives home and tell him that she loved him’. This she did. Then he burst into tears stating he was losing his business and hadn’t the courage to tell her. She started to help him in the accountancy firm and now, even 20 years later, all is very well.
Another time as I was going into church I met a young mother who I invited to join me in prayer. She said that she had just prayer for an hour. I said, obviously you were talking to yourself for the hour, for had you been in dialogue with God you would be more hopeful looking.
While stationed in Detroit a 92 lady told be the same story for years, even in the same tone of voice. Her husband died young and her three children died in their early twenties. “Why did God do this to me”. One evening I was tired and when I saw her coming I wanted to hide. Instead I listened, then I asked if she ever had good times with her family, instantly her face lit up and she told me of a trip (abroad) to Canada and the good time they had. She left, but after two minutes she came back and said to me “Marie, when I knocked on your door I didn’t want to live any more, but now I do”. She walked away with a lilt in her steps. She died that night and was I so happy to have listened that one more time to the broken record which in some mysterious way I had patched up, simply by listening.
Thanks Michael for all the help you have given me 3000 miles away in Ireland.
I have cancer, nearing the end of my time. I shall leave this Overall (flesh) with a huge “thank you” for services rendered. Then, no longer limited by the flesh I shall instantly see the room full of joyful people and angels too, and a loud cheer as I break through the winning ribbon. Michael, I am dying to get there.

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