Where Are You Calling From?
"Success seems to be largely a matter of
hanging on after others have let go."
- William Feather
"Reach out, reach out and touch someone." That's an old but familiar tune. The telephone company has excellent marketing on the use of this marvelous instrument.
Traveling down the coast of South Africa as an 18-year-old, I sailed into Capetown. There I met my father's brother, Bob, as the ship docked. He had lived as a stonemason in Johannesburg for many years. He recognized me because I had prearranged to wear a gray suit with a bright red tie.
In subsequent years, I wrote him letters, but there were never any replies. Twenty years later I finally received a letter from him. He had written first to my father. The letter had been returned marked, "Address Unknown." (My father had died during this 20-year period.) He then visited the American Consulate and obtained my address.
Uncle Bob's letter was a pleasant surprise. It also brought a twinge of sadness because he was not aware my father had passed away.
My father's other brother, Jimmy, was alive and well, living in Los Angeles. Uncle Bob and Jimmy were both in their mid-70s. They had not met, talked, or communicated for 32 years.
Uncle Jimmy was unaware that I had received the correspondence. Calling South Africa, I obtained Uncle Bob's telephone number. Ten hours ahead of California time, I put my plan into effect the following Friday morning at 7:00 a.m.. Uncle Jimmy, then our company security guard, was asked to come in and sit at my desk. We called him the Captain of the Tower. I picked up the telephone requesting an overseas operator, giving her the phone number without telling Uncle Jimmy who I was calling.
It was 5:00 pm. Friday in South Africa. If Uncle Bob was going to be home, it should be at this time. The phone rang twice, then picked up. My throat felt constricted. A faint Scottish voice came over the cable, "Hello."
I answered, "Hello, it's Bruce. You wrote a couple of weeks ago.
There was a catch in his voice as he croaked out, "Nephew Bruce?" Then silence. He finally whispered, "Where are you calling from?"
"Los Angeles, California. Hold on, I want you to speak to someone." Reaching over I said, "Uncle Jimmy, I have Uncle Bob on the telephone. Would you like to speak to him?" Tears welled up in his eyes.
They were on the telephone for an eternity- thirty-two years is a long time between conversations. Many family events had taken place. Children had grown, those children had children. Some brothers and sisters had died. It was both a happy and sad occasion. How much had been lost over many years because no one had made the effort to maintain contact!
What a lesson this carried to me. Why do we lose touch with people who mean so much? If we are not prepared to make an effort with people we love, how can we ever be successful in our less personal relationships?
A business relationship is just that: a relationship.
The thank-you note, the small gift,
the special occasion card, the phone call. They all
add up. Make a special effort to keep in
touch. Reach out, reach out and touch someone.
-excerpt from Hunger, Hunches, & Hustle by Bruce T. Mulhearn