I was traveling with my family on Spring Break. We stopped for lunch at the Toro Loco in Jackson, Ohio. The food was delicious and inexpensive, and the staff was focused and attentive.
After our meal, I tried to catch our waiter’s eye, but he was elusive. I was starting to feel anxious and frustrated, wanting to pay my bill and get back on the road. Just as I was about to get up and track him down, a patron from a nearby table walked over and said, “Pardon me. We’re a pretty tight-knit community around here. I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but I overheard you stating that you were traveling. You have a beautiful family. My wife and I have 3 kids of our own– a girl and two boys. It’s so nice to see well-behaved kids. I hope you’re not offended, but I’ve taken care of your meal. Thanks, and have a great day.”
I looked at my wife. She looked at me. We were shocked. The idea flashed in my mind that he was being sarcastic about my children, so I quickly reviewed the past half-hour in my mind, remembering their behavior. We had been talking together as a family, and all 3 of the kids had indeed been well-behaved. We hadn’t even used any electronic devices (think Angry Birds) to pacify the middle one. My eyes got a little misty. All I could manage was, “Thank you; I really appreciate it.” My wife and I continued to look at each other, feeling both blessed and dumbfounded.
After I recovered my senses, I stopped at my benefactor’s table, and said, “You humble me with your generosity. And I think you caught us on a good day.” We both laughed, and he said, “Have a safe trip.” Then I gathered my family and we left.
Over the next several days, that incident kept popping into my mind. This man’s action was sacrificial, generous, and bold. I felt like somehow I had to live up to the standard he expected. What could I do that would contribute to building my kids’ character? How could I influence them to continue growing in self-awareness and self-control?
Which was strange, because I likely would never see this man again. And he would likely never see me or my kids again.
I was struck by a couple of ideas:
- Influence requires relationship. If we don’t have a relationship with a person, we won’t allow that person to be influential in our lives. But I had just met this man; how could he become so influential with me so quickly? Since I trusted his intent, I listened. Selfless intent generates trust, accelerates relationships, and creates influence.
- He effectively said, “Whatever you’re doing to get this result, keep doing it, because it makes a difference to those around you.” How often do we (or our kids) hear stop doing that instead of keep doing that? Keep doing that is much more powerful in effecting long-lasting change.
I’m grateful that a stranger had the courage to influence me. We need more of that in our workplaces, our friendships, and our homes.