As I enter this season of Lent, I am inspired over these 40 days of almsgiving about the importance of sincerely praising others. We don’t do this nearly enough. This year I am going one step further and writing 40 letters to individuals so that I can convey this meaning in a very special and purposeful way. The email that I received below is what inspired me. My thanks goes out to Richard Morris for sharing this heartwarming story, and I hope it gives others the same important message.
What a joy it was to see you last May at the Tom Ziglar/Howard Partridge conference. Since I saw you, I have become an EMT (to learn more how to help folks). Here is the story about your dad that I had promised you:
Your dad became a private lesson karate student of mine in 1988. Don had taken your mom, Terry, shopping and saw my karate studio in the parking lot. He wanted to take private lessons, due to his busy schedule and needing to maximize his time. Don would usually come to Fort Worth to train with me, and occasionally, I would meet him in Waco for a class. We would train at his home, his office, or beside the Waco River Walkway. Sometimes, we just spent time together, as we became close friends. I have travelled with Don, Terry, you, and Doug? to Grand Cayman, Belize, Puerto Vallarta, and more. I would do a seminar or teach him each time. I enjoyed going to church with your family in Grand Cayman. I loved your dad and still do.
While I have many stories about our time together, one stands out to me. Don was 54 years-old at the time, and I met him at the River Walk for a work-out. We started with stretching on the sidewalk. I noticed that Don was 12-15 inches away from being able to touch his toes while sitting on the sidewalk. I said, "Don, can't you touch your toes?” He said, “I haven’t been able to touch my toes since I was ten-years-old.” I asked him if he ever took stretching exercises, or had help from a physical therapist. He said, “I have done Yoga, worked with a physical therapist, occupational therapist, medical doctors, and many more; But, none of them was ever able to help me get closer to touch my toes.” I smiled and asked Don, “How do you wash your feet? Don said, “It isn’t easy, and I can’t wear lace up shoes.”
I told Don that I could have him touching his toes in less than thirty minutes. Don said, “That’s impossible!” I reminded him that nothing is impossible with God. I then said, “Don, if I can’t get you touching your toes before our lesson is over, then your lesson today is on me.” Don shook my hand and said, “You have a deal!” Within about twenty minutes, I had Don not only touching his toes, but grabbing the ball of his feet with his legs locked-out. He said, “This is incredible; I can barely believe it!” I stood up, as Don was still sitting, patted him on the shoulder and said, “Don, I am proud of you!” Don looked at me as if he was going to hit me, clenching his hands, then put his head in his hands, crying. I said, "Don, are you okay?” He said, “Why did you say that?” I asked what he was talking about. He said, “Why did you say you are proud of me?” I said, “Don, for 44 years, you have not been able to touch your toes; but, today, because you were willing to try, you can touch your toes. I really am proud of you! I told him that it needs to be something specific that I can point to when I tell someone I am proud of them. I learned this from my dad.”
Don then told me, with tears in his eyes, that no-one in his life ever told him that they were proud of him…not his parents, his teachers, his bosses, his friends, or his family. He then said, “I had no idea how important these words can be. Fortune magazine said that I would be the richest man in the world by the year 2000, but no one that I can remember ever told me they were proud of me.”
Don began to cry even harder than before. When I asked him if he was okay, he turned his head away and shooed me away. When Don regained his composure, he said, “I just realized that I have done the same thing to my family, my friends, my staff, and my franchisees. I have never told any of them that I am proud of them.” I asked Don, since he is the boss, if he could take off a few hours and set this right with those he loves, starting with his family. He said, “Yes. I am and yes I am taking off the rest of the day. This is important! When I leave here, I am first going to see Terry and find something specific that I can point to and tell her that I am proud of her. She is a wonderful wife and mother. I really do love her and I am proud of her.” Don then said, “Next, I am going to each of my six children and do the same. Then, tomorrow, I am going to do the same with my staff and when we meet for our franchise conference in a few weeks, I will find something specific for them to let them know how I am proud of each of them.”
I didn’t see Don for several weeks, then we were back at the River Walkway for another workout. I asked Don, “How did it go with Terry and your kids?” He asked, “What do you mean?” I said, “Did you tell them you were proud of them?” Don smiled and said, “Yes! I had no idea how this would effect each of them. It was very emotional. We all cried! So did my staff and my franchisees! This was life changing, Richard! I am so glad you helped me to understand how important it is for others to know that I am proud of them.” Don smiled and said, “As a matter of fact, our business in the last several weeks has set record highs. Richard, this means a lot of money in my business!” I smiled and said, “Fantastic!” Don asked why I said that. I said, “Fantastic! This must mean that I get a good commission.” He laughed and said, “No, but I will never forget what you taught me. Thank you!” That was enough for me. - Richard Morris