With Father’s Day this weekend, I’ve been thinking about the things I learned from my Dad. He passed away 13 years ago and, honestly, I can remember only two lessons he taught me verbally: “Turn the lights off when you leave a room,” and “When you borrow something, return it in better shape than when it was lent to you.”
No, most of the really important lessons I learned from Dad, I learned by watching him.
Dad worked for IBM for 20 years and then ran his own consulting company for 25 more. He traveled extensively and sometimes he’d take me along. Everywhere my dad went, he was greeted warmly by seemingly everyone. Hotel bellhops and front desk workers, diner waitresses, airline counter attendants; he greeted all these people by name. Often, he’d even give them small gifts – their favorite toffee or candy or some small item he’d picked up in his travels. I never got the sense this was an effort for him. He just loved people, and loved making them feel appreciated and valued, so it was simply a natural expression of who he was.
It wasn’t until later in my life that I realized some of him had rubbed off on me. At college, as far as I could tell, I was the only student who knew the names of most of the kitchen workers and cooks, and some of the janitors and gym personnel. These people seemed to be invisible to everyone else. But because of my father, to this day – even with my poor memory – I’ve learned that it’s important to know the names of the people who serve, wherever I go.