My friend Scott passed away unexpectedly earlier this year. Recently, I spoke at length with his mother. Here is a simple, yet powerful, story she told me about him.
Scott worked as the office manager of a janitorial supply store in Sante Fe, New Mexico. It wasn’t a large store and so he was the primary contact for customers.
A few weeks ago, quite unexpectedly, Scott’s 45-year-old heart stopped and never resumed. Both friends and family were devistated. His mother and brother drove from Iowa to collect his affairs, friends gathered to tell stories about him, and another employee stepped in to run the store. I’ll call her Becky.
The day after Scott’s passing, Becky’s first customer was a little old woman who only wanted to buy a single item. She refused to let Becky check her out insisted on being served by Scott. Sadly, Becky had to tell the woman the bad news. The elderly lady expressed sadness and left the store shortly thereafter with her small purchase. Other customers filed in and out of the store and expressed their condolences, but business continued as usual.
At the end of the day, Becky called one of her friends on an unrelated matter. In the course of the conversation, her friend said that she was concerned about her own housekeeper. A regular and faithful employee, this housekeeper was just not herself. She seemed despondent and broke down into tears several times that day. This housekeeper, ironically, turned out to be the same little old lady who came into Scott’s store that morning and bought one small item.
When the housekeeper finally could talk about why she was so sad, she said she lost someone special that day – someone who listened to her. She went on further to say that she often needed many things for her work, and today was no exception, but she only ever bought one item at a time from Scott’s store. She made many extra trips because it always made her happy to go into the store and talk to Scott before work everyday, so she never bought more than a single item at a time as an excuse to talk to him. Scott was always there and always willing to listen, for years.
He made a profound difference in the life of one person simply by listening. How many other lives did he touch?
Scott, I wish you were here so I could tell you how much that little story says about you, and how much it means to me. But since I can’t tell you that, I can only hope that others will read it and, when they’re feeling low, feeling their age, and wondering whether they’re doing anything worthwhile, perhaps they can take solace and inspiration in the fact that making a difference is often quiet work.
Like so many seemingly small things in life, this story won’t make the news. Many will read it, and pass quickly on to more sensational news or other crises in their day. Yet, that doesn’t diminish the quiet effect that one person can have on another …
… when they simply care enough to listen.