I had the privilege yesterday afternoon of briefly meeting an amazing man whose wife shared with me the story of his lifelong commitment to helping and giving to others.
I found myself, once again, in a doctor’s waiting room and as I was impatiently looking at my watch some 40 minutes past the given time of my appointment a lady sitting next to me began a conversation.
As I listened to what she had was telling me it dawned on me that perhaps I should spend more time in doctor’s waiting rooms as this is the second time in just over a week that I have been introduced to remarkable people.
She was proudly speaking of her husband who is struggling with a long and difficult respiratory illness that has kept him home for over a year and has forced him to close a business he inherited from his father and has run for the past 40 years.
This couple is from a small rural community and the local general store has been in the family “forever.”
Her late father-in-law had purchased the store in the 1950s and her husband had taken it over when his father passed away in early 1974.
The store served not only the small community in which they live but also the surrounding population of some 50,000 people and over the years her husband became known as a man who went out of his way to be of service to other’s.
In this day of gigantic big-box stores where customer service is always on backorder it was indeed refreshing to listen to this lady speak with obvious pride for the way in which her husband went out of his way at all times to help others
Imagine a store today where the owner routinely packs a little extra into every shopping bag whenever you purchase something.
Her husband had long made it a personal practice to give his customers more value than they paid for and regardless of what they purchased he always added something extra at no cost.
If the customer brought fruit, he would throw in a few extra apples. If the customer bought meat he would add a few extra hamburger patties and his kindness and generosity did not stop there.
No matter what the need of his customer, he set out to fill it. If the customer was going through financial difficulties he would simply do something that doesn’t exist anymore in the year 2015. He would send them on their way with whatever they needed with the simple request to “Pay whenever you can, don’t worry about it.”
Over the years he has helped dozens of people get through tough times by providing food and necessary household items, never turning away anyone in need.
On many occasions he would make home deliveries, often driving 40 or more miles to deliver a $5 item to someone sick at home, at no additional cost and quite often when doing so would provide a little help around the customer’s house.
It was not uncommon for him when delivering groceries to an elderly community member to change a lightbulb, shovel the snow sidewalk or take a few minutes to cut the grass before he went on to his way.
He also volunteered at the local hospital and local senior’s home and even on occasion at the local school to help children of recent immigrants become proficient in English.
His wife told me than her husband had acquired his never-ending kindness and generosity from his own parents who taught him that service to others is, “The greatest work there is.”
He has been was a lifelong practitioner of The Habit of Selfless Giving and he has lived his life this way without any expectation of receiving anything in return.
A little over a year ago her husband’s illness “came out of nowhere” and it soon became apparent that he would not be able to continue running the store and serving the people he so loved.
Word of his illness spread to the community people
And then a strange thing happened.
Members of the community, many of whom had long been recipients of his kindness, took it upon themselves to reciprocate.
In less than 30 days more than $165,000 was donated to a special find set up specifically to help them through these difficult times. And the fund continues to grow.
Knowing that he was a proud man, many people quietly dropped off bags of groceries and household items at his door to be discovered later.
The outpouring of love and support for this man was overwhelming and has continued unabated for almost a year.
Sadly his condition has deteriorated and, with her eyes misting over, she told me that she did not believe he would be around much longer but she knew his legacy of always giving and serving others would remain a part of the community forever.
They have never been able to accumulate much as they gave away “to those more needy” most of what they earned and she told me of the enormous gratitude they both feel to members of their community for the enormous outpouring of love, support and assistance they have received since the husband became ill.
With a broad smile she told me that all attempts to say thank you had been met with the response of “We’re just returning the favour.”
And through the kindness of those folks “returning the favour” she knows she will be financially comfortable in her remaining years.
She said her husband often repeated his favourite phrase that there is no greater gift one can ever provide for oneself than to do something for another that puts a smile on their face.
The Habit of Selfless Giving while being of enormous help to many others, has given this delightful couple more joy than anything imaginable.
A few moments later when her husband came back to the waiting area his wife introduced us and as I stood up to greet him I accidentally dropped the book I had been reading on the floor. Her husband, a desperately ill and severely arthritic man in his 80s, immediately bent over and picked it up for me before I had a chance to do so myself.
He couldn’t help himself. He doesn’t know how not to serve others.
I felt humbled by this brief encounter and I went home rehashing my conversation with his wife over and over in my head.
I learned a wonderful lesson yesterday and I really am going to put off a lot more effort into ensuring that The Habit of Selfless Giving becomes a greater part of my life.
After all, what could possibly be the downside?
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.