I work with a lot of teenagers in my job at the grocery store. Some of them I have very high hopes for like Ben, Aubrey, Shelby and Lauren. The rest of them need to study more and so to that end I would like to offer my services as professor of remedial education. Today’s lesson will be about the meaning of the word, Epiphany.
I started my current job about one year ago this week. After I left my last job working with foster kids, I had to give up my company car so I planned to walk to work at the store, given that it was only a mile from my neighborhood. And when I say neighborhood I mean exactly that, we are neighborly to a fault. Neighborly is an old word that means friendly, caring and helpful. So much so that when my neighbors found out about my new job, they threw me a party. It was fun. We drank a little and talked a lot. Or it might have been the other way around. During the course of the evening my close friend Howard had an epiphany. An epiphany is defined as a sudden intuitive insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple or commonplace experience, like drinking beer. In this neighborhood, we have a lot of epiphanies. They’re not all worthy of a blog but let’s get back to the lesson.
Howard and I have been close friends for 25 years. When I say close, I mean within 100 feet of each other because he lives right across the street from me. I also mean that friendship is very important to both of us. Howard’s epiphany was to make my life easier by giving me his old 1998 Ford pickup to drive to work. It was just sitting in the driveway for the few times he still needed a truck but often times it sat there so long it wouldn’t start so Howard intuitively realized that if I drove it every day, even two miles, it would keep the battery charged and help me out at the same time. I gladly accepted his generous offer and my life has become much easier because of his act of kindness.
I walk about 3-4 miles a day at the store so an extra 2 miles back and forth would have been tough. The truck solved my biggest problem and also enabled me to put all of my energy into learning a new job. After 6 months of proving myself to upper management, I earned the right to seek out more responsibility. Mostly, I was focused on ways to become more efficient and much less wasteful.
A significant part of my job is to give people back their money for products they don’t want or were somehow damaged. Anything that leaves the store that requires refrigeration has to be thrown out no matter what, even if it’s still cold when they give it back to me because we have no way of knowing what happened to it while it was gone. We also throw out a lot of food that has passed its expiration date as determined by the manufacturer. The waste we deal with haunts me because I know so many kids in foster care who need good food. I haven’t figured out a good way to solve that problem but when a truckload of pet food passed its expiration date I knew I had to act. I went directly to the assistant store director and asked for all of it to be donated to the local shelter. She agreed to give it away as long as I took responsibility for getting it delivered. I loaded up Howard’s truck the same day and got it to the shelter the next day. They were thrilled to say the least. Subsequently, I have delivered small American flags to a retirement home down the street from the store, several dozen flip flops to the local foster care agencies and a few hundred T-shirts to those same organizations. Without the truck I would have a much more difficult time making these donations.
Here’s what I want the children to learn from my experience. Every act of kindness has the potential to lead to more good deeds. Howard’s epiphany led directly to my realization that I could use the truck to reduce the waste at the store and provide food for animals and clothes for children in need. Now everybody in management at the store knows they can count on me to turn waste into something useful for the needy. Dogs got fed, kids got clothes and some old vets got reminded how much we appreciate their service. It may not seem like much but it really is changing the world.
This younger generation talks about changing the world quite often but they don’t seem to know what to do. This is how you do it. Start by changing yourself. Make yourself better by being compassionate and acting on it. Do something every day that matters to someone else. By putting the needs of others before ourselves we change the world just a little bit for the better. It’s one small step at a time with tiny acts of kindness building a foundation of goodness that will inevitably lead to a world that is always changing for the better. Everybody needs to do their part by thinking in simple ways that lead to epiphanies and to the resulting actions. If we don’t act, epiphanies aren’t worth much. My friend Howard started a chain reaction of goodness with one great epiphany and his old red truck. Now, if anybody out there has an epiphany that needs hauling please let me know. I’m ready, willing and able to help you change the world and I do know what to do.
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