Friday, July 6, 2007

The Good Deeds of Strangers

Business performs small good deeds every day. They are neither glorious nor glamorous. We largely take them for granted.

Recently, I traveled to Milwaukee for a conference on progressive taxation. I had never been to Milwaukee before. I knew nothing about the city.

The trip was a long one. It required a change of planes in Memphis, an airport I had never been to either. On both flights, I was the beneficiary of the talents of many strangers: those flying the planes, the mechanics who maintained the planes, and the ground crews that cleaned them after each flight.

At every step of the journey, someone was prepared to make my life more comfortable. Flight attendants offered drinks, blankets, pillows and something to read. Vendors in the airports offered drinks, candy, books and newspapers. Restaurants offered light fare, heavy dinners, and those universal necessities for human travel, lots of coffee and alcohol.

When I arrived in Milwaukee, a total stranger took my bags and drove me in safety and comfort to my hotel. He did this in complete confidence that, at the end of the ride, I would pay him. I rode in complete confidence that he would deliver me safely to my hotel. We were both correct.

At the hotel, I was greeted by a stranger at the registration desk who welcomed me and explained that I could pay for everything at the end of my stay. I moved into a comfortable room. For the next four days, strangers made my bed, cleaned my room, prepared my meals, and washed the dishes.

We are surrounded by human genius and human kindness everyday. We don't recognize it very often because it is not our genius, or our kindness.

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