It’s about a mile from my cabin down to the highway that runs through town. On the way, there is a bridge that crosses over Billy Creek. It’s a pleasant hike along the creek, and often you’ll see some deer or other wildlife.
Mid-summer, I was heading out one morning to grab some coffee. As I approached the bridge, I spotted a man walking right down the middle. He was limping and carrying a backpack. He seemed out of place and disoriented.
As I approached, he flagged me down. He was lost and was trying to find the highway. He had twisted his ankle walking along the forest road by the cabin, which accounted for his limp.
His name was Clarence.
We got to the highway and I drove him to McDonalds. On the way, he asked if he could play me a song. I was thinking iTunes, but he took out a gorgeous hand-carved redwood recorder (flute), varnished to a high gloss, that he made himself. Not only had he made the recorder, but he had also composed the song, which represented a native american blessing. It was his way of saying thanks.
We arrived at McDonalds, chatted for about ten minutes, then said goodbye.
Meeting Clarence got me reflecting about how I approach my day.
That morning, as I mentioned, I was headed out for coffee. I had Zoom calls scheduled and was mentally preparing. The last thing I wanted was an interruption. Honestly, when I saw Clarence my first thought was to drive right by.
Always in a rush.
Today’s fast-paced world is all about about schedules, metrics, views, impressions, likes, re-tweets, followers and other technological ways that we try to reach people and broaden our influence and impact. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m thankful for it, and I utilize those tools as I create content.
But – here’s the truth – the deepest and most meaningful impact we have on people is one at a time. Clarence reminded me of this.
Since I met Clarence, I’ve become more intentional about “seeing” the people that cross my path. And, possibly having my “precious schedule” altered in order to make a connection.
These days, here’s how I implement that intentionality.
- Connect – each week, I meet at least one new person. Coffee shop, grocery store, restaurant, the middle of a bridge (ha ha), just anywhere I might be. When in San Diego, I connect with a lot of folks at the marina, since people are in and out all the time.
- Care – once we connect, I try and start a conversation. The temptation is to blow right through a “how’s it going” greeting exchange, but with a little practice and a few questions, often you can have a short chat. I simply show a genuine interest.
- Contribute – as you get to know people better, you’ll ascertain how you might speak into their life or add some value. Or, ask them directly. Sometimes, as with Clarence, it happens immediately. Most often, however, it happens over time as you cultivate relationships.
My investment in Clarence cost about 15 minutes and a smidgeon of gasoline. But it made a huge positive difference to him.
Who can you connect with this week? Or perhaps re-connect with? How can you add value or offer support?
Focusing on people one at a time won’t result in a boatload of new social media followers. But it might deeply change someone’s life for the better.
And that’s a huge part of what leadership is all about.