“I have never given away more than I got back.” – Robert Wegman
Lately I’ve been thinking about something happened to me back in the early 2000s…
The setting: a diner in Waterloo that is especially popular with elderly patrons (this fact is relevant)
My companion and I were just finishing up our breakfast one weekend morning when an elderly gentleman ambled over and struck up a conversation.
Elderly Gentleman: “Hi there! Are you two students here in town?”
Me: “Hello – yeah, we both go to UW.”
I was expecting the Elderly Gentleman’s next remarks to be something along the lines of, “My grandson/granddaughter goes there/is going to go there…” and then have the conversation continue down that line, but that was not the case…
Elderly Gentleman: “Maybe this will help you out.” [Elderly Gentleman puts $20 on the table and immediately disappears back into the general crowd of elderly gentlemen who make up the homogenous background of this establishment; simultaneously, Lee and companion are too surprised to react]
Lee and Companion: [various sounds of disbelief and confusion and then regret at not having the presence of mind to appropriately thank the Elderly Gentleman]
My companion and I were embarrassed at our general lack of reaction, so we scanned the crowd looking for the Elderly Gentleman in question…but wouldn’t you know it, every single elderly gentleman in the restaurant was similarly dressed and had the same friendly look. So, before leaving, we each picked our most likely candidate and made some sort of awkward/sheepish nod of appreciation. Not exactly smooth, but the best we could muster.
I have not forgotten, nor will I ever forget, that event. I’ve reflected on it many times over the years…it was just so unexpected, and such a beautiful gesture…I still can’t quite capture my feelings about it.
So what’s with that topically-related-but-not-specifically-related quote at the top? In 2005 I read an article in Fortune Magazine called The Wegman’s Way (I’m very thankful that the article is archived online and recommend you scoot over there and read it¹). The article explained about how Wegman’s provides all sorts of perks for their employees: higher pay, time off for school, and academic assistance including scholarships. Anyway, in that article they had the quote from Robert Wegman that you see above, and it’s stayed in my memory.
¹I’m clearly not the only person who remembers that article…as I Googled to find it, I found a few other blogs that were repeating the quote: here’s the first one I found