Last weekend I attended the district conference for Rotary clubs that stretch from Thunder Bay, Canada westward 1700 miles to Dickinson, N.D., the largest district in the world of Rotary International. The keynote speaker Saturday evening was V.J. Smith, a university professor from Brookings, S.D., who authored the book, The Richest Man in Town. Smith self-published his book until it came across Mac Anderson’s desk at Simple Truths, LLC. Now the world has the opportunity to read about Aaron “Marty” Martinson, and how one person has the power to positively impact the world.
Marty didn’t have power in the sense of position, title, education, income or any of those things we often believe necessary to be influential or rich. Marty impacted and changed the world from the checkout counter at his local Wal-Mart store. You need to read the book… I can’t do it or Marty justice here, but his story got me to thinking…
When we look around at the increasing and senseless violence and chaos in the world, it’s easy to fall into a descending spiral of despair and hopelessness. All of us are subject to it, of course, but if you are one of those people who measures who you are by the life-giving influence you have with other people—rather than basing your self-identity on size of your paycheck, the cars you drive, the house you live in, or the titles you hold—then you are not as likely to get stuck in the death spiral of negative thinking.
Comedian Ken Davis remembers the advice his mother gave him whenever terrible events were portrayed on the TV news. “Look for the helpers,” his mother would tell him. Look for the people who run towards the danger to help people in need, not the ones who run away. It is the helper who reminds us of who we are. The helper is the one who shows us what it means to be human in the very best sense of the word. These are the true heroes. They are worthy of the accolades we heap on those whose acts of bravery set them apart from the rest of us. Why?
Because we recognize there is something different about them.
At least in that moment and for that time, there is something different about them; something we admire and want to emulate. Unfortunately, we tend to reserve the title “hero” for those who step into harm’s way and onto the six o’clock news. In reality acts of heroism happen all around us every day, and we don’t see them for what they are.
For instance, it takes real courage for a supervisor to have a non-judgmental, constructive confrontation conversation with an employee whose work performance is falling short of expectations—a conversation that turns that person around while simultaneously having a positive impact on the entire work team. It takes real courage to do what’s right when no one is looking, even when it costs you to do so. It takes a hero who, though their plate is full, reaches out to a struggling coworker to help them through a tough time in their life.
“But what does this have to do with this ‘Marty’ guy, or even me,” you ask?
Good question, so I’ll answer it with a few questions of my own.
What if you and I decided today that our universe will consist only of the person we are with at the time? What if we determined that we will be present and in the moment with each person we meet? What if we make it a point to connect with people one-at-a-time in a way that says to them, “You are important to me. You have value. You are all that matters at this moment”? What would happen if we slowed down long enough to realize that the world doesn’t revolve around us after all, and that our lives really aren’t meant to be all about us, but rather about reaching out and touching the lives of other people in positive, meaningful ways? What if we each determined to be that person we always looked up to, not because of the things they had, but because of who they were and what they did for other people? What if you and I simply choose today to be the kind of person the family dog already believes us to be? What if?
Look… you don’t have to take it from me. Read Marty’s story for yourself. He was a true hero. He impacted the world one person at a time and enriched the people around him. The beauty of the story is that you and I can choose the same path. It’s only a decision away.