A close friend recently related a great story to me. It helps me as I plumb the depths of relationships that matter the most to me.
A number of years ago, a young man entered a convenience store and asked the cashier if the store had a pay phone. It did not but the cashier offered that he could use the store phone instead. The young man was grateful and accepted the clerk’s generous offer. The clerk dialed the number for the young man and then handed him the phone.
The young man was evidently calling a business and politely asked to speak to a certain individual. After about a minute, he began to ask the person on the other end of the line a series of questions. “Do you have a need for a responsible worker? A person who shows up on time? Someone who is trustworthy? Someone who will go the extra mile and give a job all that he has?” The clerk heard the boy say, “I understand” a number of times and eventually he thanked the person for their time and said goodbye.
A smile come over the young man’s face as he returned the phone to the cashier while offering a sincere thank you. Curious, the cashier asked if everything was OK. The young man assured him that everything was, in fact fantastic. Now, even more curious the cashier asked the young man to explain why everything was “fantastic.” “Yes sir, that is easy! You see, that was my boss on the phone. I disguised my voice so that he would not recognize me. I know what matters most to him and I wanted to know if in his eyes, I was making the grade at work. In response to every one of my questions, he told me that he already had someone whose performance is exceptional. It is great to know that the person in whom my boss has so much confidence is me.”
This story got me to thinking…what would my boss say about me if he were given the chance to anonymously critique my efforts. I’d like to know his unvarnished, unpretentious observations because the opinion that he holds of my work performance is an important aspect of providing for my family.
While thinking about it, I’ve concluded that there are several other “anonymous calls” that I would like to place, every now and again, long before calling work. For instance:
- I’d like to hear how my wife really feels about my support of her. Where can I improve? Does she honestly feel like she is my top priority?
- I’d like to hear my kids’ responses to questions on how I am doing as a dad. Do they feel unconditionally loved? When they are asked to think of someone they can count on no matter what, am I someone who comes immediately to mind?
- If my siblings were asked, what would they say about me? Do they feel supported by me? Do they feel as though I am grateful for their support?
- How about the folks into whom I bump randomly throughout the course of the ordinary every-days of my life… are they better for having crossed my path? Did I lighten their load? Do they feel less tense or perhaps more hopeful, no matter how brief or seemingly meaningless our exchange?
- My close friends, how would they respond? Am I there for them when they need me most? Do they trust me to be there with them in the good times as well as the tougher times?
- And the people in my faith community, what would they say if they were given the chance? Am I a good steward and standard bearer for the things in which I profess a deep faith? Am I becoming more or less Christ-like as a result of my faith-walk?
In reality, I needn’t pretend to be someone else and place the calls listed above to accurately critique my performance. In my own imagination and in my opportunities for contemplation, I can assess the roles in which I am delivering the goods and those in which I am coming up short. It is likely that I can guess with a high degree of accuracy the results of my fictitious and anonymous telephone polls. Doing so provides a compelling image and an effective backdrop from which to redouble my efforts in a manner that will define my legacy and send ripples into eternity.
Join me in setting some time aside this week to imagine polling your most important non-work relationships. What should you start doing? Stop doing? Keep doing? Ask for the grace to determine a short and meaningful list of high impact virtues that you can adopt straight away….and begin acting upon them!
Thomas “TD” Dierker
Live like you’re dying…. cause you are!