There is an old story about a fellow who went to a small town with the thought of moving his family there. “What kind of people live around here?” he asked the attendant at the local gas station.
“Well,” the attendant replied, “what kind of people live back where you are from?”
The visitor thought for a moment and replied, “They are mean and dishonest!”
The attendant looked up and answered, “Mister, you will find them about like that around here, too.”
A few weeks later, another gentleman stopped by the gas station with the same question. “Excuse me,” he said, “I’m thinking of moving my family here. What kind of people live in these parts?”
Again, the attendant asked, “Well, what kind of people live back where you are from?”
The stranger thought for a moment and replied, “I find them to be decent, honest folks.”
The gas station attendant answered, “Mister, you will find them about like that around here, too.”
I listen to books on tape while I’m delivering the mail (cd, really…I don’t know if anybody uses tapes anymore) and ran across this story on an old Earl Nightingale recording. I think the original story might have been by Carl Sandburg….I’m not really sure. Anyway…it’s a simple story that really resonated with me.
They say that most entrepreneurs find success after they move to a new and fresh area. I don’t believe that this is only due to their ability to pick a strong profit center…to pick an area more conducive to their efforts. I think that it’s probably because they allow themselves to see potential where they couldn’t see it in the old place…and because they see potential, they act with the positive expectations the new perspective affords. This doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any potential in the old area…just that they didn’t see it…couldn’t see it …until their eyes were opened by the new unfamiliar.
We live in a nation built on immigrants. Now I hear people rail against the Mexican population…”they’re taking our jobs!!!”…but years ago, it’s a good possibility that some of the jobs were being “taken” by some of the complainer’s ancestors. Many of the most successful immigrant entrepreneurs are Korean. Why do you suppose that is? Maybe because they see potential and possibility in this country…because they see that if you work incredibly hard and live insanely frugally that this country gives them a lot of opportunity. Some of the complainers might say, “they take advantage of every entitlement!!! A white man can’t get a break!!!”, but I think that they see a better opportunity in the “land of the free”…and aren’t afraid to try and utilize the opportunity they’re presented with.
People talk about the ECONOMY….like it’s the best explanation for their own failure. “I coulda been a contendah!!”…if it wasn’t for the danged economy. Some of the most creative people have flourished during times of “hardship”…(this is kind of an aside…but I guess it’s relevant… Do you know why so many artists and writers…Hemingway, etc…went to Paris after the war? Did they recognize a place where an artist’s community would flourish? Did they think that the French women liked the sensitive Americans? Did they like the French wine? It was because the French money was so damaged after the war ended that they could live very cheaply there. The bad economy was a bonus). We find opportunity wherever it is if we are looking for it.
The story of the gas station attendant and the travelers is a good simple illustration of this idea. Our expectations color our experience to a large degree (although I did expect a decent hamburger at the Dennys on that trip to Washington DC…that didn’t work out so maybe expectation isn’t always enough)…our expectations and our perspectives are really all that we have any control over. Everything else just “comes at us” with its own personal momentum. We don’t have any control over the actions of other people or the actions of the world…but we do have control over our responses to what happens around us.
I had a friend at one of the thrift stores we liked to stop at when we were doing out “thrift circuit”. Jerry had lost his wife to cancer years earlier…and now he had cancer. I’m sure that there was a lot of times that I’d see him that he was in a lot of discomfort…but every time, when I’d say, “Jerry, how are you doing?”…he’d answer, “FANTASTIC!“. I suspect that he really was “FANTASTIC”…and his enthusiasm was infectious…genuine and infectious. He blessed me with his willingness to see the positive…and he blessed himself with the world he saw himself a part of.
We find what we look for…”as a man thinketh in his heart”…Lord, help me look to find the good in the people around me. It’s more fun for me when I’m surrounded by the “decent, honest folks”.