Last week I had an experience that touched me.
I sat at the car wash reading a book, whilst my car was being washed and cleaned. I reflected on my business and performance, and the highs and lows of being an entrepreneur. I thought about how it is, that after so many years in an enjoyable and promising business that I, yes ‘I’, could feel or be part of the negative effects of the recession. Surely I was different and recession proof? Just then I spoke to a friend, who had a sick child and was going through a difficult financial situation himself. I asked myself, “why?”
Suddenly, a young lad sat at a bench near me. “Is that your car in the wash bay?” “Yes”, I said. “I like your car and branding. What do you do?” he asked. “Well, I have my own little business and I help companies in training, profiling, team building. I also speak to groups of people. ” I said. “Wow, you must be really lucky to do what you really love and enjoy”. I hesitated with an explanation, thinking to myself, “if only you knew my humanness and struggles as an entrepreneur…”
“What do you do?” I asked. “I am presently unemployed. I worked at an aluminium and window fitting company, but have not been working since November 2009. I live with my mother who has cancer. My father passed away three months ago, and my dad left me his car. I came to this area because I was promised some groceries at the shopping mall, but the person did not show up.” I looked to my left and saw his car. It was a mid-80’s Toyota Corolla sprinter that looked well taken care of. I notice that the bonnet was open. He said, “I am so embarrassed. There is almost no oil in the engine and someone has helped me out with R20.00 to buy a pint of oil.” The story pulled at my heartstrings.
Immediately, I reached for my wallet. I looked and noticed that I had no small change or notes, but only a few large notes. I said I will buy something at the adjoining shop and have some money (less than the larger notes) to help him out. At that moment, my car was ready to move to the “drying” section. As I stepped into the car, I thought, “Why bother breaking the large note to give him something smaller, when he probably could do with all of it? Why didn’t I intuitively do so?”
I came around the seating area and handed him the note. He hesitated yet accepted it but graciously said, “Thank you very much”. As I sat, he explained to me further details of his home situation. I thought to myself, “What can I say that will be of some help and shift in a better direction?” I spoke about what he thought he was really good at.
We were soon disturbed by a man who appeared visibly upset. “I gave you R20.00 to buy oil. Have you bought it? Let’s go right now and buy it! I don’t want you to con me. I am tired of people like you!” The young man obliged obediently and with explanation.
I observed the conversation and proceedings from a distance. The thought occurred to me, “perhaps the young man was lying. But, I felt something sincere and will stick with that”. I couldn’t allow the angry man to err and make his sad situation any more public and painful. So, I walked to both of them, as the young poured the purchased pint of oil in the engine.
I was surprised by the change of response in the angry man. He was now regretful and apologetic to me and the young man. “I am sorry. I’m having a bad day and misread the situation. I have been conned too often. I shouldn’t have done that.” He had now been convinced in the time lapsed that the young man was sincere and honest. With his right hand reaching to both our shoulders as he apologised, I knew he had a paradigm shift.
I told the angry man, “We have all been conned by someone at many or some stage in our lives. I learnt a lesson some time ago: If you give something away, it’s no longer yours” Such may not have been too appropriate. It may have rubbed further salt to the wound, but I couldn’t resist sharing that.
The present economic recession in the world and in South Africa has led to job cuts, less spending, businesses closing or shrinking, streamlining and having to adapt in a new way. In spite of this awareness, most of us live unconscious of those in need. And then things happen in our lives to help us remember things that matter most.
Let’s look within. Let’s be positive. Let’s be considerate of others.