This week it seems there are several depressing, local stories that are grabbing the headlines, and I have grown a bit weary of hearing and talking about them. So I just wanted to share something on the other side of the spectrum.
Perhaps you have heard of Ronald Read, a Vermont native who recently passed away at the age of 92. For the most part, Mr. Read led a modest, unassuming life. He grew up through the depression, was the first in his family to graduate high school and fought in World War II. After the war he returned home and worked as a gas station attendant for 25+ years until the station closed down and he decided to retire. But retirement didn’t suit him well, and he started working as a part-time janitor at the local J.C. Penney’s store. He remained there for 17 years before retiring for good at the age of 76.
The surprising fact about Mr. Read is that before he passed away, he had amassed a fortune of eight million dollars. Most of which he bequeathed to a local hospital and library. And nobody had a clue of his wealth. You see Mr. Read lived a very frugal life, he cut his own firewood, he wore old, worn out clothing, sometimes held together with safety pins. He drove a second hand Toyota Yaris and would even park far away to avoid paying for a metered parking spot. Once, someone even paid for his meal, because he looked like he could use a little help.
When I read a story like this, one word jumps out – Humility. How many millionaires would willingly and contentedly go to work as a janitor? That’s humility. This isn’t Undercover Boss for a day. This is a man whose attitude says that not only is no job beneath him, but there’s no person beneath him as well.
Most of us are eager to tell others of our accomplishments, presumably so they will be impressed and/or treat us differently. Not Ronald Read. He wasn’t concerned about others being impressed by him.
I think that Mr. Read has grasped humility in a way that I am still seeking out. A lesson worth learning.
In His Grip,