Realizing the importance of caring for others in your career, what are some of the ways to demonstrate such a spirit? Previously I mentioned that to care for someone is to give that person something of yourself that is of value. The key words here are “give” and “of value.” Let us now look at how you can share each of your valuable possessions — your love, your time, your knowledge/talent, or your money - with others to help improve their lives.
1. The Gift of Love and Time.
One of the best ways to share your love and time is to constantly look for ways of doing considerate, often seemingly little things to help others cope with the trying situations they are facing. To be truly meaningful, such acts of kindness are done without expectation of reward or payback of any kind. When you personally help another person without expecting something in return, your gift becomes something far more meaningful than any physical item that you might give. The simple fact that you went out of your way to personally do something to help creates a feeling of uplift in the recipient — a feeling of being appreciated, valued, and loved. Victor Hugo said it best, “The supreme happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved.” Earlier I mentioned that I had the opportunity to work for Frank Borman, the astronaut and president of Eastern Airlines. He had a strong “caring for others” spirit that came from his heart. He often went out of his way to give of himself to others without ever expecting a payback in return.
Years ago, after returning home from a business trip for Eastern, I was startled to find the car of Frank Borman parked in my driveway. To put this incident in perspective, I was just a low level manager in the company, and now one of the most respected business leaders in America and hero of the American Space Program had unexpectedly come to visit my home. Obviously, I was shocked and concerned.
As I opened the back door to our family room and peered inside, I felt my heart pounding and my knees shaking, for certainly something terrible had happened. I will never forget the image that greeted me: Frank Borman, the famous astronaut, sitting on our couch next to my three-year-old daughter, Cindy, whose leg was in a full plaster cast. She was recovering from a serious knee operation. Borman had brought her a teddy bear to cheer her up!
Now, many years have passed and that tattered teddy bear is still one of Cindy’s most cherished possessions - “the teddy bear from the famous astronaut.”
What’s so special about this seemingly small incident in life? It is special because a very prominent and busy leader gave of himself and his valuable time to personally deliver the gift. He could have just as easily given the teddy bear to me at the office saying, “Here is a gift for Cindy,” or mailed it to her, or even had his wife, Susan, drop it off at our home. But what did he do? He went out of his way to bring it himself.
Ironically, the same afternoon that Borman delivered the teddy bear to Cindy, an accident occurred at a construction site a few blocks from our house. While walking next to a building, a worker was struck on the head by a heavy stucco tile that slid off the roof. It caused severe wounds and a concussion. He was rushed to the hospital, received numerous stitches, and was later released to spend time at home to recuperate. A number of his co-o-workers sent cards and visited him. Yet, the one person who did not demonstrate his caring was the construction supervisor, the boss of the injured man. He never called or inquired about the welfare of his employee.
Just as Cindy will never forget the caring thoughtfulness of Frank Borman, the construction worker struck by the tile will never forget the insensitivity and lack of concern of his supervisor. But, the story does not end here. Years have now passed since Frank Borman delivered the teddy bear to Cindy. During that time, I have told that story to many people to illustrate the power of caring — giving of yourself to others.
The point is that Frank Borman and other caring people will not be remembered for their career achievements and financial successes, but rather they will be remembered for what they did to help others on a personal basis. The impact of a small, seemingly insignificant act of kindness toward another human being can go far beyond just creating fond memories. It can literally set in motion a chain of events that leads to significant change for the better in our society. Such was the case on a beautiful autumn day in Anderson, S.C. in 1964. According to Gary Smith, writing in “Sports Illustrated,” It all started with a dirty, disheveled 18-year-old boy, named James Robert Kennedy, roaring down a hill on a grocery cart, screaming like a banshee. No one ever plays with him, for he can barely speak and never understands the rules. He cannot read or write a word. He needs to be put away in some kind of institution, people keep telling his mother, because anything, anything at all, can happen out there on the margin. On that particular day, late in the afternoon, a grocery cart transported Kennedy to the fringes of the McCants Junior High School football practice field. There he observed the team practicing and did his best to mimic the coaches body language and commands. Eventually, his loud noises distracted the players to the point that assistant coach Harold Jones, whose role was to maintain order and discipline on the field, yelled, “Come over here, boy.” At first Kennedy did not respond and did so only when lured with a bottle of soda. What happened after that first encounter between Coach Jones and Kennedy was the start of what sportscaster Jim Nantz called “one of the most inspiring stories I have ever read.” Coach Jones, instead of reprimanding Kennedy in an effort to keep him away, befriended him. He allowed the boy to remain with him on the sidelines during practices and games and even let him do odd jobs during the school day. After some difficult times, the players and townspeople grew to appreciate Kennedy’s loving, supportive spirit. Sports Illustrated writer Smith found out about the budding relationship between Coach Jones and Kennedy, who had been affectionately nicknamed “Radio” because it seemed he always had a transistor radio next to his ear. Smith decided to visit Anderson, S.C. to find out first hand if what he heard was true. And in December, 1996, he published an article in the magazine entitled “Someone to Lean On.”
One thing led to another, and in 2003 Columbia Pictures released the film “Radio” that chronicled the first few years of the close relationship between Coach Jones and “Radio” Kennedy. What started as a simple act of kindness from one human being to another led to the Sports Illustrated article, the movie, and countless speaking engagements by Coach Jones, all of which have brought world-wide attention to the special needs of people like James “Radio” Kennedy. There is one additional twist to this fascinating story. Several years ago Coach Jones and “Radio” Kennedy visited my church in Hilton Head, South Carolina to address the congregation. After the presentation one of the parishioners asked Jones, “What drove you to help the boy?” Jones than related an incident that occurred early in his life when he was delivering newspapers one morning before dawn. As he approached a house set in from the road he heard noises coming from under the crawl space below the front porch. Dismounting from his bike he took a closer look. He was startled to find a young child in a wire enclosure. Afraid, Jones threw the paper on the porch and fled. Days passed before he said anything. Later, while reflecting upon why he did not report the apparent child abuse incident earlier, he swore to himself that if he ever had another opportunity to help someone in serious need by acting in a courageous manner that he would do so no matter what!
2. The gift of knowledge and talents.
The Frank Borman and Coach Jones stories illustrate the power of giving love and time unselfishly to others. What about the giving of your knowledge and talents?
A good example is what a good leader does when he or she spends extra effort to develop a high-potential employee, knowing full well that that person will be promoted out of the organization.
Why do it when the loss of a key employee could adversely affect the short-term performance of your team? The answer is that it is the right thing to do for both the organization and yourself. Accelerating the development of the high-potential employee is obviously the right thing for the organization because it helps ensure its long-term success. Being an unselfish coach is also the best thing for you to do personally. Having a good track record in this important area will attract good people to your team. In addition, your reputation as a top-notch developer of people will be recognized and help you obtain your career objectives.
3. The gift of money.
The third way of demonstrating your “caring for others” spirit is to unselfishly help others financially. This is often the hardest thing for people to do. Recently on a TV show, Jon Huntsman, the founder of the multi-billion-dollar company, Huntsman Chemical, was interviewed. After explaining how successful Huntsman had become, the interviewer asked Huntsman to relate what happened during the recession of 2000-01 when his company was faced with bankruptcy. Huntsman described how his company suffered continuous losses and was nearly out of cash. “What did you do then?” asked the interviewer.
“I went to our lead bank and asked for a $50 million loan,” replied Huntsman. “Of course, the banker was interested in what we intended to do with the money and how we would secure it.”
“And what was your response?” prodded the interviewer.
“I told him that we were going to use the money to fulfill the pledges that we had made to various charities.”
“How did the banker react to such a startling statement?”
“I think it ‘floored’ him. He had never heard of such a thing, a large loan being used during a recession to make charitable donations rather than to invest in marketing or productivity enhancements.”
Then Huntsman proceeded to make a stunning announcement. He intended to leave the world in the same manner in which he came into it, totally broke — by donating his entire $2 billion fortune to cancer research and other worthwhile causes.
This was a special teachable moment for the millions of viewers throughout the country.
4. The gift of spontaneous selflessness.
There is one additional act of caring for others that goes beyond the giving of your love, time, knowledge and talents, or money. And that is going the extra mile to help someone, possibly even a stranger, on a spontaneous basis. The natural tendency of many people is to be cautious before coming to the aid of someone they don’t know. This is understandable with all the crime and legal issues we have in our society. However, there is something inspiring about people who instinctively give of themselves without becoming paralyzed with uncertainty or fear. Wesley Autrey is one such person. What he did on Tuesday afternoon January 2, 2007 at a New York City subway station was almost beyond belief.
While standing on a subway platform, Autrey watched in horror as 20-year-old Cameron Hollopeter fell off the platform between the tracks. Apparently suffering from a seizure, Cameron was unable to move. When Autrey saw the rapidly approaching train headlights in the tunnel, without hesitating, he jumped off the platform and shoved the disoriented student into the only space where they had a chance to survive — the shallow, grimy drainage trough between the tracks. There Audrey pinned Hollopeter in the trough by lying on top of him, face to face. After the incident, Autrey confessed that he had no idea whether there was enough space for the train to pass over them safely. He told one newspaper reporter, “I couldn’t just watch a train run over a man.” When the subway officials measured the depth of the space between the tracks, they were amazed to discover only about two feet of clearance from the train to the bottom of the trough, meaning that the train passed over the top of the two men by only one or two inches. Having an attitude of spontaneous selflessness doesn’t necessarily mean putting your life on the line for others. This is an extreme example. What it does mean, however, is that your initial instinct when observing a person in difficulty is to find a way to help him or her. In review, a “caring for others” spirit involves giving something of yourself to others that is valuable, such as your love, your time, your knowledge/talents, your money, or even your spontaneous assistance in a time of need. The illustrations so far have focused on people sharing one of their “gifts” at a time. Certainly it is possible to share several “gifts” at the same time. It’s far more unusual, however, to share them all simultaneously. This is exactly what occurred when Dr. Muni Tahzib, a Hoboken, N.J. pediatrician, decided to help the unfortunate victims of the worst humanitarian crisis in decades — the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti. When her offer of service was rebuffed by several international relief organizations due to her lack of extensive field experience, Tahzib utilized Facebook to quickly form a team of 17 doctors, nurses, and technicians. In just a matter of days she and her team arrived in Port-au-Prince with a load of medical supplies, food, and water. There she became a part of an extraordinary volunteer relief effort that included thousands of people like Tahzib who dropped everything in their lives to respond to the crisis with their love, time, knowledge and talents, and money to help those in desperate need. As the title of the lead article in the February 28, 2010 issue of Parade Magazine boldly proclaimed, “This is What Being Human is all about!”