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“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
-Philippians 2:3-4
The Story
This is my last hurricane story and I will move on, I promise. It is just so good that I must share it. After the governor declared a state of emergency on Wednesday before the hurricane, I went to BJ’s to get some staples, just in case. I had been to Wal-Mart the day before, and the entire water aisle had been cleaned out. I was hoping I would have better luck elsewhere.
I arrived just after 3 o’clock. An employee at the entrance was telling each customer that there was a limit of four cases of water per person and that the line was forming in the back of the store. I made my way to the back of the store and I got in the line. We were told that they had just run out of cases of water, but that another truck with water would be there by 4 o’clock.
I waited until 4, and the truck did not come. Shortly after 4, we were told it was stuck in traffic and it would be there by 5 o’clock. I tried to pass the time by talking to strangers in the line.
5 o’clock came and went. At 5:45, another customer said that she had talked to a manager. The manager said that she did not know why they told us that the truck would be here at 5 o’clock. We were told that they had no idea when the truck would come.
You can imagine how discouraging this was. I weighed my options and left the line to gather other necessities—batteries, canned goods, and dry goods.
When I arrived at the check-out, I noticed other customers in the check-out line each with 4 cases of bottled water. To no one in particular I said, “I just left the line 15 minutes ago.”
I looked to my left. I recognized the two black women in the next check out line. They were not too far from where I stood in line. The one closer to me said, “Here. Take one of mine.” I demurred. I explained that it was my fault. After all, I had stepped out of the line. But she insisted. I was grateful.
Then, the other lady told me to take one of her cases too. I was so touched by their kindness. They did not know that they would not need the water. They did not know me or anything about me. But they reached out to help me, and I was moved.
That is the story.
The Lesson
As I drove away, with my head still spinning, I thought two things:
First, if I were a racist, this event would have upended my view of the world. Black Lives Matter and other political groups have worked hard to impact the way we think with protests and marches, but these activities have nothing on simple gestures of human decency.
My second thought was that this would make a great GBN lesson. At the time, I was not quite sure what the lesson would be, but I was sure that there was a lesson here. Over the last few weeks, I have thought a lot about the incident. I came to conclude that nothing—no program or process—reaches us like direct human contact.
This is easy to say, but not so easy to do. You can say, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” or “Olive Garden. When you are here, you are family.” But the proof is in the actions. We are not impressed with slogans; we are impressed when one human being reaches out to demonstrate that they care about another.
What About You?
When is the last time that you have reached out and touched your customers in such a meaningful way? When was it so obvious that you cared that they walked away in awe after meeting with you? What would happen to your business if this were your regular approach?
© 2017 Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.