I have learned the hard way that most of the improvements I have made in my personal and professional production come when I regain some form of consciousness. That is, when I pay close attention to others, when I notice things and situations, when I ask questions, listen and genuinely become interested again in people. As I mentioned in my last post, curiosity is a good thing! I further believe that this state of awareness occurs when we practice purposefulness and intentionality.
The first time I met Ernie Banks, I spent uninterrupted, joyful conversations about several topics. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, he is "Mr. Cub." Ernie played for 19 years for one team, one owner, in one city, for one mayor, in one stadium, under one light - the sun. He is a member of the baseball Hall of Fame, The 500 Home Run Club and his number is retired from the Chicago Cubs and hangs on the foul pole in Wrigley Field. He is well known for his optimism and positive spirit.
It frustrated me to have to end the meeting. But as we were walking out of a chic skyscraper in the Chicago Loop, marble floors, gold-plated light fixtures and well-dressed security guards, we stepped onto an express elevator on the 44th floor to go to the lobby. I saw it right there, first hand, with my own eyes - this man's passion, wisdom and compassion. His spirit and optimism...his gift!
I held the elevator door for Mr. Banks and the two other unknown individuals who were joining us on the elevator for the direct decent to the lobby. The first was a young African American woman; I thought she was in her late 20s. The other was an African American man, I'd say early 30s. They were followed onto the elevator by Mr. Banks (early 80s) and then finally me (a white, nearly 5o-year-old man). I just stood and noticed. The young man looked up at Mr. Banks (very recognizable in the city of Chicago) and went back immediately to his Blackberry without a word. I was not sure if he recognized him or not. The young woman didn't look up at all. I said nothing.
Then the elevator silence was broken. Mr. Banks said to this young woman, "You look like you have something on your mind." "Excuse me?" she said, still looking down in that very popular elevator position. I took uncomfortable notice. "You look distracted, young lady," Ernie retorted. She added, finally looking up, "I have a very long commute today, sir."
"You need to get home to that baby of yours" Ernie replied. "Sir, my baby is 19-years-old now," she said. Mr. Banks shot back with a smile, "He's always your baby and he needs you now."
I watched as her eyes welled with tears, she again, now softly, looked up at him, smiled and said, "Yes, he is. Thank you, sir," just as the elevator doors opened and she walked out. Her step was now noticeably quicker and with a huge, beaming smile.
This old hall of fame baseball player in the less than thirty seconds lifted this woman's spirit in a way that I will never be fully capable of explaining. What a joy to witness! I felt better just being around him. It helped me to begin to believe in society, in people again and in the power of a gentle spirit of optimism and availability.
Do you want to know how to raise the bar for yourself, your organization and society? Act on the wisdom, wit and wealth of the "so called" silent generation. Believe! Believe in someone, something and see what it does for you and the people around you - the people you serve. Act like Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks and you will change the world - one person at a time.