People Will Remember How You Treated Them

This article was submitted by Steve Cashdollar, an author, teacher, and coach. Steve writes, speaks, and coaches about “courage.” His Professional Advantage training program is a systematic approach to new client development for attorneys, accountants, and other professionals who never imagined they would have to sell! You can “Crash a Class” for free by clicking here.

Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.” — Mother Teresa

As I walked to my car following lunch, I noticed a young man sitting on the concrete sidewalk with a shaggy black dog on his lap. It was raining. They barely fit under the shopping center awning. I was drawn to talk to the guy to see what was going on. He was stranded, trying to get home a few hundred miles away.

I gave him a few dollars and wished him well. As I sat in my car, ready to pull away, I shook my head and stopped. I walked back up to him and asked him if he had a way to get home. He said his friends said it was too far of a drive. His ex-wife was trying, but her old car might not be capable of making the trip and back. His name was Joe.

I gave him my cell number. “If you don’t have a ride home by seven tonight, call me, and I will help you.” At 7:00 p.m. sharp, my phone rang. 

“Steve, I can’t get a ride,” he said.

My instinct was against putting a stranger and his dog in my car. I called my neighbor, a corporate security expert, who agreed to go along. We were going to get Joe and drive him halfway to meet his ex-wife, who was driving to pick him up about three hours from us.

Joe said the soft car seat felt good. He was cold and wet. He and his dog fell asleep in the car within a few minutes. They slept the entire trip. We dropped him off at a Wal-Mart. He said they would let him wait inside until his ride arrived.

It was late. We drove back in silence. I suppose my friend and I were thinking about this young man and how we would have felt if he were one of our kids. I thought about all of the times in my life when I walked by someone needing help, not making eye contact, uncomfortable with the thought of giving a few dollars and possibly being scammed or cheated.

I’m not bragging. I write this essay because I want to learn to pay more attention to the people I meet today and every day. I want to make it a practice to consider that every person is going through something hard. It doesn’t matter if it’s my doctor, my cashier at the grocery store, or my neighbor. There is a feeling that connects us all.

I’m not lobbying for you to pick up strangers and drive them to their destinations. Just try an Internet search for empathy. This idea comes to me after reading the book, Empathy: The Human Connection to Patient Care, a story of a doctor who changed her life after realizing that she had lost empathy for her patients.

This week, practice getting comfortable with the vulnerability of keeping your heart open, even in the face of your own heartbreak, setbacks, or fear. We are all prone to moments of unconsciousness. Seeing how quickly we can pay attention to others is one way to turn that around.

Of course you must set boundaries when someone or something could be harmful or abusive. But after closing off our hearts, our empathy is the easy way out. Doing something bigger, something better, and something different will require all the heart you can manage!

Be on the lookout today for someone needing your help. After just one decision, you begin making a difference immediately.

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