Beyond the Build

Leadership

Reach Out

Not too long ago, I was traveling home on a Friday evening and passing through the Chicago airport. I was walking up to an escalator–one of those long, steep ones that takes you down to travel under the tarmac to the next concourse–and noticed no one was traveling down. As I approached, I realized the situation. There was an elderly woman dressed in clothes that clearly placed her from another country, with a baby strapped to her back. She seemed frozen in fear as she looked down. Maybe she had never been on an escalator before.

Years ago, I might have let someone else help the situation. I since have realized that we all need a hand at times to take leap of faith, or in this case, ride the escalator down underneath the airport runway.  I reached out, held her arm, and said, “Lets go.” While she had no understanding of what I said, she had some trust, and we rode together. When it was time to go back up on the other end, she got on with ease. About half way up, she looked back at me. I gave her a thumbs up, and she smiled. We spoke different languages, but we connected that evening.

Maybe we all could do a bit better job, me included, offering a reassuring hand and a smile as we travel these trails. Who knows? Maybe the roles will be reversed one evening.

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Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and President of the Stewart Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.