When I was about fifteen years old, we lived beside a golf course – Bonnie Briar Country Club. To be precise, the green of a par three hole was right next to our backyard (the green was just beyond the brush and woods that separated our yard from the golf course).
The golfers were hardly pros and I would often find hooked balls in our backyard. I did what any kid would naturally do, I threw them back at the flag on the green.
I was an unexpected and unseen element in the golfers’ games – delivering random acts of kindness, disturbing their natural order of things.
One day a man saw me do it and yelled “Hey kid, come here!” I hopped the fence at the edge of our yard, ran through the 20 feet of brush & woods between our yard and the course, and went over to talk to him. He said, “Around here you are kind of a God. Guys hit off the tee and think they are lost. Then they come up to the green and find their ball there. A couple have even found holes-in-one. You are an act of God!” Then he said, “Would you like to learn how to play golf?”
I had never played golf – other than “Miniature Golf!” … So I had no idea of how real golf was played. I was just a kid. The man turned out to be the club pro and decided to teach me how to play the game and began giving me lessons.
But the life lesson stayed with me. Unexpected acts can bring rewards and random acts of kindness can pay off later in unexpected ways. I guess I determined to default to kindness.
In my early career, back when the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS) was trying to find ways to grow, including developing an Associate in Risk Management (ARM) professional designation, I offered to help by creating a technical Risk Data Analytics component for the ARM. I already had a great relationship with RIMS Executive Director Ron Judd, for whom I had done a number of programs for their annual conferences. Both Ron and my bosses at Marsh (Joe Fahys and Bob Clements) loved the idea. So, I wrote it up and it was warmly received. I neither asked for nor received any bonus for this extra work. In fact, it was a labor of love, which Ron Judd (and his organization) appreciated.
These were also the things that gave me the confidence to act when I saw a problem that needed to be solved, like golf balls littering our back yard.
Take the initiative, disrupt the expected order. You can make people happy… You can be a god!
By the way, Ironically, for my 50th Mamaroneck High School Reunion, our Saturday night banquet was at Bonnie Briar Country Club clubhouse! A country club where I was once a god!