by Wendy Morris
Soon after I graduated from college I worked in a small but well-known photographic studio. I was one of three women in an office of 20 people. Jack, the owner, was a nice old man who was rather dapper in appearance. Some employees regarded him as a mere figurehead, someone who didn’t want to retire.
Yet, Jack opened his house each summer for a company picnic and generally was like a grandfather to everyone. He and his wife took my husband and I to the opera, which was a new experience for us as we were newlyweds and never did anything more exotic than dinner and a movie. All of his employees were treated as family.
My job was to make certain that everyone had the supplies they needed, that photographs leaving the studio were perfect and to generally act as support to the photographers.
One elderly gentleman had worked at the studio for decades and was well loved. He worked in a small room and remained there most of the day as he had been struck by polio as a child, and had limited use of his legs. He got around slowly on crutches, but had difficulty carrying anything that couldn’t be in a bag, so I often checked on him to see if he needed anything. Usually he just requested coffee.
One day this man must have been ill and needed to get to the restroom facilities, but he couldn’t reach them in time. This resulted in an overwhelming mess. No doubt he was beyond embarrassed; he left the building before anyone discovered the mess. As the employee who generally took care of the place, I knew I would be expected to clean it up.
I was prepared to quit and leave the building myself rather than go anywhere near it. Jack came in to see what the ruckus was about. After surveying the scene and without hesitation or saying a word, he rolled up the sleeves of his custom-made shirt and cleaned up after his friend.
After that I knew Jack would never ask me to do anything that he wouldn’t do himself. I took that lesson and applied it to many situations in my life. I have pitched in and helped when I easily could have delegated tasks to employees.
I have not been afraid to get my hands dirty, and have in turn earned respect from my friends and coworkers when I’ve jumped in and tackled unpleasant tasks. I will never forget the kindness and support Jack demonstrated that day.