I want to talk about my friend Karen, who is in the last stages of cancer. I went to visit her this weekend and got to see how a woman who is suffering still has class. While I was there, the family showed me a tape of Karen. In the video, Karen was receiving an award for Employee of the Year at the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and she was being interviewed about the award. Now, you’re probably thinking, “the DMV?” Most of you get very aggravated with the DMV – the waiting in lines, the rules, not feeling like you’re being helped, etc. But until Karen came down with cancer, she hadn’t missed a day of work in decades.
Just before receiving the award, Karen had a stroke and the interview was conducted while she was in the hospital. Some very big “mucky-mucks” came to see her – the head of the state DMV and the lieutenant governor – because it was such a big award. She was sitting in a wheelchair struggling to talk, and she was asked how she felt about getting the award. She said (and I’m paraphrasing – she said it much better), “I feel very honored. I and all of us here work very hard to serve the public. We do the best we can to be considerate and compassionate, and to do a complete job. That’s our job. It’s our responsibility; it’s our obligation to serve. I enjoy serving the public, and I enjoy helping people. I’ve always been that way.”
There she was, only 49 years old with terminal cancer and now a stroke, sitting there glowing with modesty and talking about our responsibility to serve well and with the right attitude. If even 5 percent of the people in this country actually do that, I’d be amazed. It just shows what kind of a person she is and what kind of a person we’re losing.
I told her later, sitting by the side of her bed in her house, holding her hand, and wishing I had magic, that I was really impressed with her attitude. She’s never been interviewed before and didn’t know in advance what she’d be asked, but she just talked from her heart and said, “You know what? It doesn’t matter what the economy is like. When you have a job, it’s an honor to have that job, and you should do it to the best of your ability without resentment and without attitude. You should be grateful you have a job and understand the value of what you do to serve other people when you have that job.”
Karen’s words got me thinking: What if people had the same attitude about their families? What if they thought, “It’s a blessing to be fortunate enough to be a member of this nice family; I’m going to honor that great fortune, and I’m going to do the best I can to serve the people in this family.”
Unfortunately, most people only think about themselves. This is why I loved that line from John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” It’s a great concept. There are so many terms we can substitute for “country” in that phrase, and it still rings true. You could replace “country” with “job,” “spouse,” or “family.”
So for the rest of my life, anything useful and wise I come up with on my program, I dedicate to Karen, one of the most decent, sweet, lovable people ever. Everybody in her family will tell you no one disliked her.
Think about that.
Do you know anybody who’s liked by everybody? Karen’s the only one I know. She is so genuinely generous. She’s not one of those manipulative people-pleasers who uses people to get what she wants. Karen was created to give with a good attitude, even with terminal cancer and a stroke. There’s just something special about her. If you’re lucky enough to have a handful of friends anywhere near like that, it is a major gift from the heavens. Anybody who’s around a person like that is changed forever.