The old photo shows the glorious archway and the old oversize oak
doors of St. Peters Balcilica in London Ontario.
It was taken directly across the street to include a large sign in the
foreground that read IBM, barely readable as a blur of white dashes.
Between the two was the light from a street light in a shroud of rainy
evening mist. Below the street light was a parking meter (I mean
checking into life is one thing; but there’s definitely a time limit!)
In any event, I had taken that picture as a young man about to enter
the full time workforce, for the first time, just after graduation.
At the time, that picture represented the biggest question mark of my
young life – is it possible to succeed in business (represented by IBM),
while retaining your integrity (as represented by the church)?
Or, put another way, could I be the same man on Monday morning as I
was on Sunday morning?
The first thing I found out, as a retail manager trainee, was that no
one was much interested in the question. Business was business.
Yet, the fundamental values learned from my youth troubled me
because of the relative lack of weight they carried in day to day
Living with purpose, instead of living for a pay cheque, meant
everything to me. I refused to play the game. That’s when I learned
That “customer service” wasn’t the same as Service (as a way of
So it was I found myself alone in my room asking the good Lord what to
do. The answer: follow your heart, what have you got to lose? Doing it
their way, you’ll get fired anyway!
‘Take it or leave it, or try to believe it, if you’ve been done too
long.’ (Lyrics, Gordie Lightfoot)
Within the next 3+ years, I went from manager trainee, to supervisor,
to sales manager, to assistant store manager, to store manager – with
various companies; and later finished off with career earnings in the
top tier of a fortune 500 company.
Why the turnabout?
Well, I can tell you that it sure wasn’t my superior skill, knowledge or
intellect! There were plenty of people that easily exceeded me in all
What I did notice though was that I discovered that people appreciated the genuine respect I afforded them and working hard not to disappoint them -honouring commitments and owning my mistakes.
For me, as I look back at that old picture, I see that what was a
question then, is an exclamation mark now! Maybe we need both the
spiritual and intellectual in order be self-fulfilled, as well as,
This precarious world needs everyone to help; and we just can’t leave it to others; and we can’t do it all by ourselves.
What else are we going to do … call 911?