Properly Crediting The Credible

It happened one day during my military training. Some of us were taking a “smoke break” when the talk drifted into the pity party vein. That is, we were comparing our plight with others supposedly much better off.

That led to one of the guys mentioning somebody he knew who “had it made.” Another one followed with a similar story. Then a third one chimed in about a friend who had been getting all the breaks.

About that time, a sergeant who’d been leaning against a tree while slowly smoking a cigarette, eased over to our circle. “Guys,” he said, “I overheard about everything you said, and I can’t let this go by. I’ve been nearly everywhere and done nearly everything, seen all kinds of stuff and met all kinds of people, and I’m here to tell you, nobody in this whole damn world has it made. Nobody.”

With that, he turned and left. He had stated his case so bluntly that we didn’t feel like picking up on the talk. We just snuffed out what was left of our smokes and got back to learning how to be a good soldier.

Like many other words one hears in a lifetime, his could’ve easily floated away, never to be thought of again. Instead, they got a firm grip on me and have been hanging tight ever since. Whenever I’m tempted to use that “got it made” statement, I catch it.

Just as the natural world is filled with checks and balances, so it is with humankind. For every near penniless and unfortunate person wishing they had a million dollars, there’s a millionaire worrying that someone or some thing will find a way to legally or illegally take from them what they worked so hard to achieve.

To be more specific, consider a corporate president, founder of a highly successful law firm, airline pilot, brain surgeon, manager of a big equity fund, promising political leader, popular actor or entertainer with millions of followers — the list goes on. No matter what you think or imagine, they face questions they can’t answer, uncertainties they didn’t expect, hard decisions they can’t avoid. They endure consequences not of their making, situations they can neither deny nor shrug off. They have toothaches, belly aches, and heartaches, or an addiction threatening to pull them downward toward total ruin.

Nor does it stop there. They are often shunned, ignored, disliked, or even hated for that same reason, a glaring error stemming from those who perceive or assume they are correct.

What if, however, you approach them not on the basis of the label everyone has attached to them that you assume is true, but rather on the human conditions of compassion, concern, appreciation, and shared interests of well being.

For example, the next time you’re in what appears to be an exceptionally well-run store, find the manager, identify yourself, and say what they so much want and need to hear — you noticed, you appreciate their efforts, and you wanted to recognize the person responsible.

Each time you return, keep an eye out and if you see that person, give them the high sign indicating you recognize them, that your original meeting wasn’t a fluke or a meaningless nicety, but instead, was a genuine gesture to tell them you understood their situation, regardless of what it might be.

Make such actions a habit, a part of your makeup, inherent in your behavior, your way of identifying the all too often unappreciated efforts of others. It won’t gain you a freebie, but rather a reward of far greater value, namely, the desire and ability to recognize the efforts of others who need such assurance.

Without saying a word, you’ll be telling them you know what they’re going through. Even if you don’t know, assume you do and that feeling will grace whatever you say.

Such people may be miles beyond what you have or are able to achieve, but within the context of effort and reward, they don’t “have it made.”

Nobody does.