Awesome, grinned the 5-year-old girl reaching for the small box of crayons the waitress placed on the table while her parents perused the menu in this family dining restaurant. The little girl quickly discovered the interesting shapes and engaging puzzles on the place mat that seemed to captivate her creativity.
But then the little girl served up something that was not on the menu, something her parents found even more nourishing: their youngest child’s empathy for someone other than her immediate family.
“Momma, see that grandpa over there? She pointed to a balding 77-year-old man eating alone in the family restaurant. “How come he’s not together with his family right now like us?
Her mom shrugged her shoulders as if to say that she didn’t know. “I don’t like it when I am all alone,” the little girl said.
“Well what if you drew something for him?” her dad suggested as she continued drawing and coloring.
The little girl almost immediately began drawing a bright yellow sun on a napkin and wrote in her best lettering HAVE A GREAT DAY!
The dad smiled and enjoyed the goosebumps dancing on his back. He looked across the table at his beaming wife enjoying her own dance with the goosebumps while the girl’s older brother scoffed at how “stupid” his little sister was acting.
“Dad, could I give that grandpa my drawing?” she asked.
Impulsively, the dad called the waitress over. “Do you see that older man in the corner eating alone? Can you put his tab on ours?
The waitress nodded in the affirmative. “And one more thing, ” the dad added, “could you give him my daughter’s drawing? After all, we all need a little sunshine in our lives.”
The waitress felt those same goosebumps as she presented the girl’s drawing to the elderly man and notified him that the little girl’s family was paying for his dinner.
He looked at the little girl’s drawing of a sun beaming this sunny message “Have a Great Day!” in various colors: blue, orange, green and yellow on a white paper napkin.
He smiled across the restaurant — a smile that lit the faces of that young family in general, a smile that the little girl felt warmer than the sunshine in her drawing. He waved his appreciation and later stopped by their table to personally say thank you.
Three hours later, the elderly man was still beaming. He felt compelled to share his experience of empathy and joy with a random acquaintance — a cashier — as he finished buying groceries. He pulled the napkin out of his jacket pocket and unfolded its bright sun and even a brighter message. Someone cared.
Have a Great Day
The little girl’s gesture seemed momentarily to ease the pain of losing his wife of 54 years to cancer a few months before. And the dad’s gesture of paying the “grandpa’s” tab seemed more comforting at that moment to the 77-year-old former business executive than even the comfort of the financial security blanket that kept him warm and secure, a security blanket still filled with hundreds of thousands of dollars in his various bank and brokerage accounts. The elderly man was already a rich man when he walked into the restaurant. He left the restaurant even richer.
Enriching the lives of others with empathy is a key leadership skill whether with random acts of kindness or well-planned, thoughtfully executed skill development and recognition.
For more ideas on enriching the lives of others with empathy, purchase a 300-page book available on Amazon.com filled with 77 examples from business, sports and politics.
It’s titled: LOVING Like a Leader with Empathy– one of three books in The Leadership Mints Series designed to help leaders refresh their feeling for leading.
And as a bonus, the postscript titled– BUSINESS: A HUMAN EXPERIENCE — shares the impetus for this book on empathy impacting the bottom line. The two other books in The Leadership Mints Series -now available on Amazon.com — include THINKING Like a Leader with Clarity and SPEAKING Like a Leader with Civility.
All three books in The Leadership Mints Series are designed for busy leaders seeking to refresh their feeling for leading in 5-minutes or less — the average reading time of a Leadership Mint.
in The Leadership Mints Series
available on Amazon.com
in print and e-book
What is a Leadership Mint?
Consumed like a breath mint — quick and on-the-go — a Leadership Mint is a short story that energizes leadership behaviors and personalizes leadership principles so they are more easily remembered, more readily acted upon and more fully applied.