Yesterday my wife and I flew back from Canada where we had spent two days visiting boarding schools with our son, Ryan. No, we are not looking to send him to boarding school because he has done something wrong as we were actually asked (jokingly) by the immigration officer. Instead, we believe that this investment in our son’s education will better position him for college admission, give him more sporting and academic options, and pay him huge dividends later in life through the networking and independence that the boarding school life provides.
On our way back to Grand Cayman from Ottawa we changed aircraft in Charlotte, NC. My family had some breakfast in a typical airport restaurant. You really never know what you are going to experience in terms of service, and having been up since 3:30 am we probably just wanted to have no-one speak to us.
An enthusiastic gentleman with a heavy accent served us. He proceeded to make us feel like he had waited for us all morning (while serving with equal gusto several other tables in our section). As someone who has worked in sales I can tell you he hit all the marks effortlessly, suggesting beverages, anticipating requests, up-selling my wife on a salad that he guaranteed would be better than the one she originally asked for, or he would get her the original one she wanted for free. All the while he did this without seeming to follow a script or being pushy or otherwise coming on too strong. He delivered, in short, outstanding service.
As we were leaving I complemented our server and said that in my opinion he was one of the best servers I had ever had. I went on to say that I thought his talents were probably under-utilised at the restaurant and that he could get a job in whatever area of sales he wished and would have enormous success.
He replied with an appreciative thanks, and an apology for his accent as he explained that he was still learning english, the most recent of his 5 working languages, and had to think about his words as he said them. I asked him where he was from, finding out that he was in USA on a student visa from Togo and that he was in his junior year at UNC as he worked to put himself through college. When he graduates next year he was planning to return home.
What an inspiration! At the same time, what an immediate contrast between our context of preparing to spend a serious sum of money to put our son, and probably eventually our daughter, through boarding high school in Canada, and our server’s story of working to put himself through college in America. In my mind it really sharpened the focus on how fortunate we are to be able to even consider this as an option for my son at this time. There are so many near and far who can only dream of a similar chance in the formative years of life, a chance that can change your future.
My hope is that my son (who subscribes to this blog) reads this and gets the moral of the story told between these lines. To make it perfectly clear, it is that financial ability and connections are undeniably of great help in getting a leg up in the world. However, nothing can replace passion and drive to succeed.
I’m glad we had the chance to meet the gentleman from Togo yesterday. He had passion and drive in abundance. He inspired and humbled me. I hope his story and my observation and note of it here inspires you also.