I guess my dad always had a knack for knowing how to give without being asked. No matter how little he had on him, he always felt richer by the sheer fact of having more than the person in front of him in that very moment. I remember many instances of my dad stopping to speak to those less fortunate as we walked the streets of downtown with him and my brother hand-in-hand. We were either going to the movies or our monthly treat of dining at Dunn’s on St-Catherine Street in Montreal. My dad would notice a homeless person, approach him or her, exchange a few words and either give whatever money he had left on him or take us by the hand, walk into a restaurant, place an order and hand it to the person. I can still see in my mind’s eye my dad kneeling down to look at the person in the eyes and say a few words. Sometimes the person would notice us. My dad would then invite us to come closer and he would introduce us to his friend, “Come and meet my friend Toby, John, Mathieu, Luc…Liz….”
I knew we didn’t have much, and as I grew older, I would ask him on our way home, “Are we going to be ok?” He always responded with a reassuring smile, “Don’t worry. It is the right thing to do. When you have more, you give more. It is your responsibility”.
I later learned as a teen that my dad was homeless when he made the decision to travel across Canada in search for work. He was 19-years-old when he immigrated to Quebec with no family. He spent weeks, months, homeless- close enough to his work, but far enough for no one to notice him. Whenever he was asked about this time, he always responded with a huge grin, “I got lucky. Everywhere was my home!’”
Lucky. What a sticky word. Where was the luck? No family. No support. No friends. Alone. And yet he used the word “lucky”.
If those circumstances made him feel lucky, then I supposed I am super, super, super lucky!
As an adult, I reckon that luck can be seen from two vantage points. The first speaks to the random occurrence of incomprehensible events and circumstances that lead to good things in our lives. We did nothing to earn the outcomes. It just so happened to be us (I will deal with this view of luck in another blog HARD WORK AND INTELLIGENCE = SUCCESS? THINK AGAIN so stay tuned). The second belongs to the mind. It is a state of mind. When everything seems to point to being unlucky, one sees ahead, past the present hardships to the place where one is heading. There is vision. You are able to see that you are more than your circumstances. You have grit; firmness of character and an indomitable spirit that enables you to plow ahead even in the presence of unimaginable challenges. My dad knew he was going somewhere even when he was a homeless young man. He knew he would have a family someday because he knew he wanted to be a loving husband and a caring dad. He knew that he had enough grit to pull through, and he knew that living for tomorrow was important. Indeed, he would go on to pull through many more unforeseen, unplanned, unfair life events in later years.
His love for giving without having to wait for the right moment influenced the way I see myself in our world. In fact, I made social giving an essential part of our corporate purpose. It defines who we are, and why we do the work we do. We give even when most stakeholders would prefer we hold tight. That’s because I recognize that we are indeed “Lucky” because we know where we are heading. Very much like our blue ocean strategic approach to business, we see blue ocean possibilities with our social giving.
And, I bet if everyone gave as much as they could in whichever manner they can, we would have a kinder, more tolerant society.
This year we decided to contribute to the building of a school in Africa through direct financial support as well as by offering our current and future clients the opportunity to come together in any one of four Lunch & Learn sessions on leadership development.
We grow while we give. And, YES, we are lucky to be able to live our purpose.
To learn more about the school in Sô-Ava, Benin, Africa, click here.
To learn more about our Lunch & Learn sessions, click here.