My life was forever changed in November of 2006 in the sales manager's office of a car dealership. No, I wasn't given a free Corvette. I didn't just find out the rest of my lease payments were covered by an annymous donor. There were no financial discussions in that meeting. Instead, it was a meeting that not only dramatically altered the course of my life, it intervened in the length of my life. That was the moment I told my boss that I no longer wanted to live.
I'm sure there's a chapter in Car Dealership Management for Dummies titled "What To Say When A Depressed 26-Year-Old Tells You He Wants To Die." It's probably right after the chapter about residual rates on leases or end-of-year incentives. Regardless of how he learned it, his response had a powerful affect on my life, and I reference this moment every single time I tell my story. I could tell he was probably uncomfortable with the discussion, but he gave it a shot anyway. He didn't try to be a counselor. He just restated something that I had previously told him.
"Rick, you mentioned when you first started working here that you used to go to church. Maybe that's what's bothering you. Maybe there's something missing, like a piece of you is missing." I remember telling him that he was wrong, and that he had no idea what people at church were like or how much anger I had towards church people and God.
"Well, maybe that's part of the problem. Is there at least someone that you can talk to about it?" That question forced me to confront something in my heart that I may have otherwise ignored, leading to a 18 month wrestling match with God and myself before making a decision to recommit my life to Christ in June of 2008.
And you know what? Until recently, I've never once thought of going back and telling him how much that moment meant to me. He probably has no idea what impact that moment had on my life.
The Power Of A Lollipop
A few months back, I stumbled across a short TED talk by Drew Dudley causing me to revisit this moment. In this six-minute video, Drew shares a story when a woman reached out to him and told him how much of an impact he had on her.
You can watch him share that story here...
Drew Dudley giving a TED Talk in Toronto. Video curtesy of TEDx Talks Youtube channel
In this video, Drew asks listeners if they've ever had a "Lollipop Moment," which he describes as time when "someone did something or said something that fundamentally made your life better." He follows up by asking us if we've ever told that person. "Why not? We celebrate birthdays, when all you have to do is walk around and not die for 365 days. And yet we let people who have made our lives better walk around without knowing it."
He challenges everyone to take a moment and recall that person or people and just let them know the impact they've had on us. If we all do our part, we can make an incredible difference in the world and live into our role as leaders.
A while back, someone approached me and shared their "lollipop moment" with me. Except it wasn't about me. It was about my mom...
The After-School Program: Mom's Ministry
In the early 1990's, my mom was the coordinator of the after school program at the private school I went to. She would stay with the kids until the parents were able to come pick them up. There was one particular kid who was always the last to get picked up. Those who knew my mom know that she had a big heart for the underdog. She was the one who showed compassion to individuals that might fight under the description, "Extra Grace Required." This student definitely fit in that category. So, not only was this student a bit challenging, he was nearly always the last to leave. I remember being frustrated at times, "mom, just leave him." (Thankfully a 6th grade version of myself was not a key decision maker in this process). Yet, she never grumbled or complained.
Fast forward to 2014. I don't know how to describe the thoughts and feelings I had at mom's viewing. There were so many stories and memories shared that day, but one in particular stands out. There were tons of people there that day, enough that the funeral director had to get extra pages for the guest book. One woman came in and began to look around the room, like she was looking for someone specific. At the time I wasn't sure who she was, but I remember noticing the look on her face. I knew I recognized her, but I couldn't quite figure out why. So, I did what any extrovert would do - I just walked over to her and said hello.
"You probably don't remember me, but my son was in the after-school program with your mom. I just heard the awful news, and I just needed to come tell you how much your mom meant to him and to me. Those were some very challenging times for us, and the way your mom cared for my son made a huge impact on his life and mine."
All I could do was say thank you and give her a hug. I hadn't seen this woman in close to 25 years, yet she felt compelled to come share this story with me. We both cried for what felt like a half-hour. It was probably only 30 seconds, but grief has a funny way of turning your brain into scrambled eggs covered in Frank's Red Hot.
She didn't need to come share that with me. Yet, had she not, I would have been robbed of a powerful moment, one that has kept my mom's legacy of compassion for the underdog alive in my heart. I am grateful that she had the courage and saw the value in sharing that story with me.
So, I will reitterate the words of Drew Dudly - do you have a lollipop moment? If so, have you told them? Don't let your fear rob that person of hearing how important that moment is to you. They might need to hear it.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a sales manager to contact...
*UPDATE: The day after this article went live, I visited the dealership and had a great conversation with my former boss. He appreciated that I took the time to share that story with him andcatch him up on what I've been doing since. It turns out that by visiting, I was also able to pass along some grief support resources for a team member that had recently suffered a loss.
Join The Conversation
What moment comes to mind when you hear Drew Dudly's story? Have you ever had a conversation with a person who changed your life and might not know it? Or is there a person that clearly comes to mind when you read this, and you are searching for the courage to reach out and tell them. Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below, or contact me on Twitter @RickGuttersohn.