When he smiles, it is obvious he has only one front tooth on top. He has a pear-shaped body so his hips are wider than his shoulders, and he walks with a limp. He always looks sleepy, and the giant T-shirts he wears every day with his thick glasses give him the appearance of a dull wit.
The thing is, he’s not. He’s actually quite witty, charming too. And he’s smart. It’s not that he’s educated. He’s not. But he’s wise. Wise is better.
He doesn’t say much, ever, but when he does, people listen. He keeps his word, tells the truth, and speaks evil of no one. Additionally, he doesn’t stick his nose into anyone else’s business, even if affects him.
If you ask his opinion, he’ll hesitate, but then honestly answer with gentle, carefully chosen words. He’s gets along well with others, is dependable and never makes an excuse. As a result, he’s very well liked and respected in the workplace.
People on the job call him by his first name, Willie, or his last, but every time his name is spoken, “Mr.” is always said first. The respect conveyed to him by co-workers and management alike is not demanded, encouraged or even expected. He earns it. The respect is a genuinely sincere compliment. He doesn’t seem aware of just how respected he is. If he is, he simply ignores it in quiet humility.
He’s quality. Regardless of the age, race, color or national origin of his co-workers, they recognize the quality too in an otherwise unsightly, 59-year-old, never been married, obese, black man born and raised in the backwoods of East Texas.
If you looked at him in a line-up of people who others would say look “respectable”, he would not, ever, be mentioned. With people though, quite often what you see is not what you get! After a few days of being around him, he naturally rises to the top of respected people, not because of talent, looks, or name, but solely because of who he is.
A young, somewhat cocky little guy transferred into the same department as Mr. Willie. From day one, his arrogance stirred the pot. The young man talked, a lot. Additionally, he made jokes about, and at, other’s expense. Several employees reported his “teasing” was getting out of hand.
One day I walked up behind him at break time when he was making fun of Mr. Willie. Mr. Willie just forced a smile and made light of it, yet his eyes seemed to say he’d heard this kind of teasing quite a bit before.
Several employees confirmed it was an ongoing problem and how he was always “disrespecting Mr. Willie”. I snapped at the arrogant little trouble maker, told him to hush and pointed where he was to go stand. He shuffled to the spot with a big grin. I pounced to the spot with a scowl.
At first he said, “Aw man! That ain’t no big deal!” Wrong. Thing. To. Say! From there, we had a very intense, one sided, up close and personal “re-training” about how the cow chews the corn. He clearly understood his options, and there weren’t many.
That was several months ago.
Last week at morning break, I happened up behind the young man again while workers were discussing current events. He didn’t know I was nearby. Clear as a bell he asked, “What do you think, Mr. Willie?”
After several months of working beside him, he understands and truly respects, Mr. Willie.
Respect is earned, not given. Sometimes we “respect” someone simply because of their looks, talent, money or name. That’s not respect. Respect doesn’t come from cutting an album, starring in a movie or catching a football. Those are achievements, which are great, but should never translate to automatic respect.
Respect, true respect, pinpoints the core of the heart and motivation of spirit. Respect is earned through self-discipline, integrity, and above all else, character. Respect paves the road for honor, which we esteem in meaning, purpose, values and sacrifice.
So, what does that have to do with Mr. Willie?