I was working on a promotion for United Way. I distributed a promotional invitation to all of the local churches along with my phone number for more information. A woman with a thick accent called me. It was difficult to understand what she was saying and the conversation took much longer than I had the patience for. She did want to participate in the promotion but had no means of getting to the location. I reluctantly agreed to pick her up and bring her back. I believe I rolled my eyes as I committed to this. When she got into the car I began with small talk – she was a stranger with a language barrier so it was a bit uncomfortable. As we drove, we learned that she and her husband had fled Iran as persecuted Christians. They had left everything behind. Soon after they arrived here, there was a major earthquake in her home town which killed nearly their entire extended family. As she continued to provide details of her life, I began to feel more and more appalled at my initial attitude toward her. It was an excellent lesson in humility.
My son was on a soccer team. We were at a tournament with a lot of time between games. The mother sitting next to me is a single mother with an only-child. Out of nowhere she tells me that when she was in college she became pregnant. She carried the baby to term and then gave it up for adoption. That baby was now a 20-something man and had found her. Her only other child, the soccer player who was in high school, had been unaware that he had an older brother. Now the mother and two boys began the process of knowing each other and creating family memories together. You never really know what is in a person’s past unless they chose to tell you.
A colleague of mine is from a wealthy family. When they were kids, his father took the children camping. They had never been camping before. They went out and bought all of the necessary items. Loading up the car they headed to the mountains. Mom didn’t go. They sat up camp, ate and went to sleep. Early the next morning, Dad woke the kids up and told them to pack up the car, they were going home. When they reached their hometown, Dad stopped at their Country Club and made the children shower in the locker rooms. He was not going to take them home only to soil their own bathrooms. The only moral to this story is that it’s so funny. Either you love camping or you don’t.
Another colleague owns several businesses and continues to start up new ones. I asked to write a feature article about his businesses for a local magazine and he agreed. Turns out, he migrated with his parents to the U.S. illegally as a child. He worked alongside them in the fields. He ended up working for an agricultural related company as a young man. His work ethic and intelligence did not go unnoticed by his employer. When the owner of the company decided to retire, he offered the young man the opportunity to purchase the business over time. He was able to grow the business and payoff the debt quickly. It expanded and continued to be the catalyst for additional new businesses that vertically integrated with his existing business. He focused on new technology in every aspect of his endeavors. Most of his businesses have an engineering element. My colleague never went to college or formally learned engineering. He did end up sending his two sons to college. Both are now engineers and being groomed to take over the operations when he retires. It doesn’t matter how you start out, what matters is what you do with what you’ve been given.