Oct 20, 2017 5:00:00 AM
Sep 1, 2017 5:00:00 AM
“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” – John F. Kennedy
Decades ago, my Aunt Jean took me to my first high-end restaurant. She explained the menu and wine list to me, and how to ask for help from the wait staff. After we ate, she went through the bill and demonstrated how to calculate the tip. Since I went to college near her office, my aunt would schedule dinners like this on a regular basis. Those dinners prepared me for the business world as much as my classes did.
It was time to carry on the tradition. Last week, I took two of my nephews out to a nice steakhouse in Boston. I shared what I’d learned from my Aunt Jean, and from the next 35 years of fine dining. We laughed, told stories and promised this would be the first – not the last – time we’d have a night like this.
Dec 23, 2016 5:02:00 AM
These events occurred in 2010. It remains one of my favorite holiday season stories.
My Bose headphones help me maintain sanity on long, crowded flights. They’re a “must pack” for every trip. I’ve even raved on my blog about my fantastic customer service experience at a Bose store, and a visit to their corporate headquarters.
Imagine my despair on a recent Friday night, as I was unpacking my briefcase, and noticed that my headphones were missing! And my iPod! I used a strap to attach the carrying case to my briefcase, but the catch had slipped. I went back out to my Jeep, hoping the case was on the floor. It wasn’t.
In my mind, I retraced my steps earlier that night. I remembered packing the headphones and attaching the carrying case at the end of my flight. Then I walked through the terminal to the parking garage and loaded my bags in the Jeep. No stops on the way home. The case must have fallen while I was on the plane or on the way to my car.
I started the phone calls. First to the airline, but their “Lost & Found” department was closed until Monday morning. The next call was to Logan Airport. I navigated through the options until I was connected to their “Lost & Found”, which is run by the State Police. The recorded instructions said to leave a voice mail with a description of the item, and if it was found, someone would call me. I went to bed with little hope of seeing my headphones again.
On Saturday morning, I walked into my home office and noticed that the message light was blinking on the phone. The message was from a man with a distinctive Boston accent. “Hello Mr. Fallon. My name is Connie O’Callahan, and I work at Logan Airport. I found your Bose headphones and iPod in the parking garage, and would like to get them back to you. I live in Charlestown, and noticed that you live in Southborough. Perhaps we can meet somewhere in between. Please call me at ###-###-####, so I can arrange to return your property to you.”
I couldn’t believe it! I forgot that I put a business card inside the carrying case. From the time-stamp on the voice mail, Mr. O’Callahan had called before I even arrived home. Because of the late hour, I hadn’t gone into my office.
I called Mr. O’Callahan’s home, and a relative answered. Connie was still sleeping, having worked a double-shift at the airport. I explained who I was, and was told that my headphones were on the kitchen table. They took my number, and said that Connie would call me later.
A few days went by before I received a call back. Connie hadn’t seen the message, and was wondering why I hadn’t called him. When he did call, he apologized for the delay, stressing that he wanted to return my property. I made it clear I appreciated his honesty, and looked forward to meeting him. We agreed that I pick up the headphones during my next trip to the airport.
At the end of my next trip, I went to the parking garage and spoke to an attendant. I asked if Connie O’Callahan was working, and if he would page him. The attendant called Connie on the 2-way radio, and told him I was there. Connie was working in another terminal, but would meet me at the garage office in 15 minutes.
At last my chance to shake this man’s hand and thank him. Connie reiterated that he could tell the headphones were expensive, and wanted to personally ensure that they were returned to me. I expressed my thanks again, and let him know that I appreciated him tracking me down.
If I believed all that I read or saw on the news, airport employees are part of a conspiracy to lose my luggage, harass me or violate my privacy. Certainly they wouldn’t help someone who dropped something in the parking garage.
And Connie’s from Charlestown, the working class neighborhood in Boston that’s the setting for Dennis Lehane’s crime novels and the Ben Affleck movie, The Town. Surely the people who live there are bank robbers and gangsters, not the type of people who find a set of headphones and return them to their owner.
But Connie O’Callahan, the Massport employee from Charlestown, is the hero of this story. Not because he was honest, but because he went the extra mile. Connie took personal responsibility for the situation. Thinking about the other person, he made sure my property was returned.
During this time of year, we’ll be bombarded with many messages. Blended in with the reports of sales and discounts will be stories of people like Connie. Decent, honest people who’ll touch the lives of strangers with their thoughtfulness and generosity. A few of these stories may make the news, but most will take place in the anonymity of our everyday lives.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Connie O’Callahan.
I know. Because I’ve met him.
Nov 25, 2016 5:05:00 AM
"Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding." - Khalil Gibran
This is the time of year when we give thanks for all that’s good in our lives. For many of us, it may be our job, our home, our family, or our loved ones. The moments of happiness we never expected, and never take for granted. We raise our glasses and toast to love and friendship.
Just as importantly, we should be thankful for the lessons we’ve learned. Perhaps we’ve discovered new methods for improving ourselves. Or begun to understand more about the world – near and far. The ways we’ve grown and become a better person.
While we don’t celebrate pain, we need to also give thanks for what we’ve found out though the difficult lessons. Loss, heartbreak, failure – simple words that carry so much meaning. Deep, personal significance that we don’t always share. And don’t wish on anyone else.
While I try and use the word “we” when writing these posts, in this case I don’t want to presume my feelings are the same as anyone else. Your loss may be too great for there to be a positive side. Your grief may be deeper than what I’ve experienced. I can only wish you peace.
My difficult lessons have helped make me a better person. Not being able to see – or talk to – a loved one who has passed away, I celebrate the memories of the brief moments I was lucky to experience with them. Tears mix with smiles as I share stories of days past. Muted photographs remind me to express my love to the people I’m with today.
Failures remind me to celebrate what has gone right, no matter how small. Being physically broken has taught me how much I need the support of others to heal and recover. And I learned the exact same lesson when my spirits were crushed. The pain may not go away, but it’s easier to bear because of someone’s love.
We don’t seek out suffering and sorrow. We don’t want others to go through physical or emotional distress. At the same time, we recognize that pain and loss are a necessary part of life. Through that recognition, we may find a way to further celebrate the joy that we experience today.
Nov 4, 2016 5:01:00 AM
“A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues.” – Cicero
This week, I was able to spend some time with two of my favorite people – Maureen Goodson and Mary Guthrie of the National Postal Forum (NPF). We were in Washington DC to attend a briefing at the U.S. Postal Service headquarters. Arriving early, we used the time to discuss ideas about next year’s conference in Baltimore, MD.
My involvement with the NPF has grown over time. From being one member of a panel in 1995 to delivering multiple classes each year to sponsoring events like the Habitat for Humanity build. With the help of Maureen’s staff, we’re looking to do even more in 2017.
The NPF isn’t the only conference in the print and mailing industry, nor is it the only one I attend. But it is the only one that I’ll go out of my way to support, whether that means leading extra classes, delivering webinars or publishing blog posts. When Maureen asked why I’m so loyal, I had a very simple answer – for over 20 years, I’ve never not been thanked.
That may sound obvious. However, the NPF has thousands of attendees, senior government officials as speakers, dozens of presenters, and Fortune 500 companies as sponsors. It could be very easy to miss a single contributor from a smaller company in the midst of that crowd. But that never happened. And that wasn’t an accident.
It takes conscious effort to create a positive, thankful culture in any organization – a company, a local fundraising group, or a book club. Leaders have to set the example, recognizing the efforts of everyone involved. Everyone has to see the people at the top taking the time to thank all contributors – regardless of level.
And while leaders have to set the example, the entire organization has to believe in the importance of acknowledgement. You don’t have to be a senior vice-president to say, “Thank you” – to a customer, a contributor, or a peer. It’s always correct to express your appreciation.
Of course, this same attitude should extend to our personal lives. We’re all beneficiaries of gifts from others – some small, some life-changing – all important. We need to let that person know we appreciate their actions. Recognizing their support can take the form of a note, a phone call or a simple, sincere expression of thanks at the moment.
The impact of your actions may last a lifetime.
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