To Transform in an Instant
Last night I took my kiddo, Jeremy, shoe shopping at REI. Given that he’s an eight-year-old-boy, we needed something fairly indestructible, so shoes are one thing for which I set aside my thrifty ways. With school on the horizon and the end of summer approaching, my son is totally stir-crazy, and as I walked into the store with my whirling dervish by my side, I could feel my blood pressure rising. Then we met Marty.
Marty was likely in his early 60’s and was truly a shoe expert. He knew more about shoes than anyone I’ve ever met. But it wasn’t his shoe-prowess that I found so impressive (though it was), it was how, in an instant, he transformed my son.
If you haven’t gone shopping with an eight year old boy recently, you probably don’t realize what a harrowing experience it can be. I could see from the outside looking in that we were “that family”, as I worked to simultaneously evaluate the breathable-waterproof-shoe-selection, hail someone down to help us, and intervene when I spied Jeremy hurling himself off the rock formations they use for testing hiking boots. From behind me I heard, “Young man. Come here.” in a deep voice. I gulp.
Jeremy freezes, looking confused, and curiously walks over to the man. “So you want some new shoes, do you?” the man said.
“Yes, I do!” Jeremy exclaims as he bounces onto the bench, all wiggly, like an excited little puppy.
“Well, Jeremy…that’s your name? It’s nice to meet you.” He looked Jeremy in the eyes and held out his hand for a hand-shake. Jeremy laughed and handed him his hand, and Marty, very intently and seriously said, “Look at me. In the eyes. Firm. Make your hand firm. Good. Always look people in the eyes Jeremy, and give them a firm handshake. Then they’ll know you’re a man of honor.”
I watched in awe as my son grew still and quiet and focused. “Yes, sir!”
After trying on several pairs of shoes and settling on a pair, Marty turned to Jeremy and said, “Jeremy, it has made my day to meet you. You are an amazing young man.” And I could see that he meant it.
“It’s made my day to meet you too,” Jeremy said, looking him in the eyes. And I could that he meant it.
I believe those two, my soon-to-be-third-grader and Marty-the shoe-expert, were standing a little taller after their exchange. Both of them.
Every one of us has the opportunity to transform someone in an instant. To truly see them. To bridge their confidence. To make them stand a little taller. And by doing so, we get to stand a little taller too.
In whatever shoes we’re wearing.
©OnStage Leadership, 2013
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