I have been posting on facebook about an experience I have had at work the last couple of weeks and wanted to share it a bit more in depth here.
About two weeks ago, we were cleaning out the member lockers that were not rented but had locks on them. It was pretty amazing what we found. Old food, power tools, even a gas mask. But one locker stands out as one of the single best moments of my life.
I found a wallet covered with dust stuffed with 23 $100 bills. Ironically, the wallet was made out of duct tape. In the wallet were the id and credit card of the former member. Turns out he had canceled his membership over a year ago.
The stories ran through our heads. The space in us filled with bad thoughts about the person. We wondered if he was a drug dealer or was in jail. Why would someone abandon $2300?
The next day I was telling the story to one of our front desk guys and he remembered the man. He told me that the man had reported the wallet stolen while he was working out. Along with his wallet, the thief had also stolen the keys to his motorcycle. The police had been called and few people apparently believed him.
I finally got hold of the man to tell him about it. He was so thankful and appreciative. He told me that not only had the wallet and money been stolen, but that it was not his money. It was his company’s money. He also was told by the police that they had to impound his motorcycle and when he got his other keys he could claim it at no cost to him. He felt bad about his carelessness, but he felt worse that no one believed him and blamed him.
But then he dropped a bombshell. Our CEO had apparently believed him and written him a check for $2000, maybe $1800. We had made him whole in his eyes. In total, however, he was still out $520 because there was $2300 in the wallet and the police charged him $220 for towing and storing the motorcycle.
Now here’s the thing. If he had not told me that, the chances are we never would have known. He would have come out way ahead. But he told me because he believed it was the right thing to do. He told me because he had been scammed badly in the past year by people taking advantage of the fear the bad economy has created. He talked about Karma and wanting to be a good role model for his kids. He did the right thing. He also told me he had little to give his kids for xmas because of the losses he’d suffered. He had every reason, every con game reason, to not tell me.
I met him that night and handed him the wallet, money and all. Why? Because until I could prove we paid him, I was going to let him keep it. I trusted him to give the money back in that moment. The other people at work couldn’t believe I did it. I know my superiors would have been mad at me. But until I knew for sure how much we’d paid him, I was going to give what was his back to him.
I also told him that I knew the feeling of being scammed, almost always by people who say they are going to help you, people you believe have something you want. I told him about living in a tent all summer to save money, one of the greatest experiences of my life, certainly the best lesson I have ever had in knowing what I really want in life.
I knew and know now, that if he did not pay the money back, I would have to. I was willing to take that risk. And believe me I don’t have $2000 lying around.
Some of the people at the front desk over the next few days would not drop it. They could not believe I gave the money to him. They were certain he would not give it back. But I also knew they were the same people who doubted his story in the first place. I had moments of doubt and worry myself. Called myself stupid. But then I realized this was simply the Storyteller, the voice in my head and wondered how to best fulfill MY promise. I decided to trust him.
I verified that we had paid him $2000 with accounting and called him. I could hear the Storyteller in his head trying to figure out how to keep some or all of the money or to even give it back over time I told him that really was not possible, that I would have to pay it back myself and that I was already getting heat for it. He simply asked me “Is this going to make you look bad?” I said yes. “Well, we’re not going to let that happen. I’ll bring it in tomorrow and give it to you.”
I was stuck in bed with gout for two days and couldn’t walk so I could not get to work. He did not come in either to give me back the money. And again the Storyteller started spinning the bad and ugly possibilities. I was tempted to call him but heard my own voice say “Trust him.” I didn’t call.
When I went in this morning, there was an envelope in my box…with the money. Made me cry it felt so good.
And to top it all off, when I was hired here I was told I could bring some of my friends out to create a speaker series. And like everything else we wanted to do here, there was simply no money or too much resentment from people here of what I was brought here to do.
So I asked my CEO if I could use this money for the travel for that speakers series. Without hesitation he agreed.
Oh yeah, I also let the guy keep $200 to cover the towing of the motorcycle.
I am proud of how I handled this. I am proud of him. The best gift of all, however, is when he told me how proud they were of him for telling me we had paid him. Here’s a guy who has lost just about everything the last year. But he never lost his kids love or pride in him, though I am sure he doubted it. This was a great chance for him to feel that trust and pride and love.
Trust. I define trust as holding onto what truly matters. It is the only path to knowledge. If you do not trust something enough to do it with your whole heart, you will never know what is possible. And if you let go of something that matters, it creates the opportunity for the Storyteller to tell his lies when you go to do your work.
Thanks for letting me share this with you. I hope you will tell others the story. I hope you will use it to remind yourself to trust enough to do something completely and to ignore the Storyteller.
What a great finish to 2009, one of the best and worst years of my life. But in the end, I am that much closer to fulfilling my promise.