Corporate Social Responsibility: Making a difference in the lives of others

By Rick Gabrielsen President, Kupuna Hospitality, LLC | September 30, 2012

Often in conversations the topic will come around to what your profession is, where are you employed or other such professional dialogue and etiquette. In a roundtable meeting of high level hospitality executive's years ago, this particular meeting started on time with a simple question written on a note card before each participant and it read," Take away your professional designation and title today so that we can talk about who you are". Since then over the years, I have re-stated this same question many times to friends, peers, subordinates and strangers and the responses become as much comical as it is enlightening. To the defense of those that share a similar feeling of making a difference in the lives of others, let's share a few stories and I certainly hope that you will be inspired after reading.

It was six years ago on a typical Thursday of delivering needed nutrition and conversation, supplied by Meals on Wheels that a relationship started with me the deliverer and a participant. Over the next four years, I learned about their family and professions and numerous cross country and downhill gold medals they had each received. The time in each delivery in generally lasts no more than 5 minutes, but it appeared that it was always 20 minutes of smiles and joy. As time progressed the husband passed away and the wife continued to read by magnify glass the paper each morning and still enjoyed the cooking, though at times hard to read. Often she would greet me at the door and ask that I write down in big letters two or three lines in the recipe that she could no longer make out the small letter measurements.

Her health was getting poorer by the day. One day, she mentioned to me how much she enjoyed our snippets of conversation and that I had enlightened her day each time I delivered her meal. Over the years I would see her maybe once or twice a month due to a busy travel schedule, but she always greeted me when I came to the door with a big smile and it is so nice to see you again… where have you been? Think about it, 5 minute infrequent interactions made such a difference to the receiver and the provider.

One bright sunny mid-summer afternoon and I drove to the top of the hill to deliver her meal and the normal protocol was to knock, enter and announce your name loudly, a young lady came down the stairs and said you must be Rick. Surprised, I said yes my name is Rick and I am here to deliver cheer and nutrition to Mrs. M today. She responded saying that she was Mrs. M's daughter and that Mrs. M had specifically requested that if Rick came today to be sure that I see him. As I walked up the stairs I was greeted by many family members saying hello Rick, certainly to my surprise, since I had not met any of them before. The daughter then said Mrs. M would like to see you in the study. Happily I go into the study and deliver the meal. Mrs. M said, I just wanted to say hello today because I don't know how much longer I will be around. I told her I would be back next Tuesday and be sure to cheer you up. Upon leaving the study, she said Thank you Rick and all you have done for us over the years. That memory of the smile and sincerity I often recall when passing the home nowadays. You see on my next scheduled delivery she passed away that morning. As I write this brief story, I remember that it was 5 minutes of interaction that created a difference in the life of this one person. We all can afford five minutes in the busy day to share, listen and see the beauty of change when you are told of the value of time.

There was a time when a colleague and I had a few differences in strategy and presentation and the relationship was always superficial. The battles of simple stupid items over the years would cause friction amongst the teams and sides would be developed. As time progressed and we each went in different professional directions, two years ago I receive a call from this person who is searching for employment opportunities and was curious if I would help him. Surprised that he would call me, but as I learned over the next year that I was on the bottom one hundred of people he had called, but many would never return his call or e mail.

We spoke frequently thereafter and I would provide him some motivation and leads and a different point of view. I did not wait for him to call me, I would check in every two weeks just to say hello and offer a friendly voice. When times are tough it is amazing how many people run from you or avoid you and act as if there was never a relationship. Upsetting to see the many people in this same situation, I decided when I heard of a fellow hotelier in tough times, I would call to just reach out. If they wanted no part of a conversation that was OK with me, but it was my offer that mattered most. Certainly everyone would return my call and appreciate the conversation. A five minute interaction that made a huge difference in his life, not to mention mine, knowing that I was there when many elected to not be. I received a note recently from this person with the words so graciously written, 'Thank you for sharing your time with me and my family, you have made a difference in our lives'. WOW, I, just a guy trying to make a difference and it happened again.

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