Small moments – small stories – are often those that matter most in telling us the true character of a person, a community, a corporation.
For example, take my cousin Netty: always charming on the surface, yet also fiercely competitive. So much so that when we were kids, playing a board-game, if it looked like she wasn’t going to win, she would hurl the whole board across the room, and stomp out of the room, screaming in anger that everyone else was being unfair. And even more than hating to lose, she hated for anyone else to be seen to win: she would hide the last jigsaw piece so that either she would be the one to complete it, or no-one could complete it at all.
Then there’s her brother Paul: so stubborn that when he had appendicitis back when he was fourteen, he insisted on walking into the hospital on his own, even though he was so rigid with pain that he could barely move. Solid, self-reliant, hates to be helped: he’s always been like that.
Sometimes, though, the real character will only come through in moments of stress. My grandmother was like that: I always remember her as wittering on about anything trivial, life as soap-opera, barely an abstract thought in her head. Yet there are also all those other stories about her: like that time, back in the early 1930s, when she was driving her little Austin up in the twisty, hilly lanes of north-east England, bringing my mother and her sister back from school. They turn a corner to find there’s an out-of-control semi-trailer coming sideways down the steep hill straight towards them. What does my grandmother do? She puts her arm across the children – no seat-belts in those days! – and says calmly, brightly, “Hold on dears, we’re going into that field”. And does – just as the truck comes crashing past them. That was my grandmother: a head full of marshmallow most of the time, yet suddenly solid as a rock whenever you needed it most.
What are your stories like this, about individual people, or people working together in your community or company? What are your small moments that matter?
Filed in: For Business, For Community, For Family
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