My wife does an amazing job decorating our home. Maybe too good of a job. She changes colors and decorations with each holiday or season. Admittedly, I’m often clueless about the passing months and her changes remind me just where we are in the year.
“A friend is someone who will sacrifice for you even when you don’t know it.” -Skip Prichard
This past spring she changed the wreaths on our front doors. I suppose some birds took a look and thought they were inviting enough to build a nest. When we opened the door one day, the mother bird flew off. We realized there was a nest in the wreath and that changed everything.
Until those eggs hatched and the new birds were safely flying on their own, we would not use the front door. For any reason. Deliveries? We’d just walk the packages around the house. Visiting us? “You can’t enter the front door,” we shout from a window, “Come through the garage!” The air-conditioning repairmen who came to replace a faulty unit? Well, they had to take some extra steps.
We were careful to watch the birds’ progress, but not disturb them. We didn’t want to scare the mother bird off. All through the spring we took pictures and waited. Finally, one day they were all gone.
They never even knew we were there.
They didn’t know that we were going through all these inconveniences for their benefit.
A single moment can change your life. A single decision can have a lasting impact. A single relationship can define you in ways you would never expect.
That single moment happened in Laura Schroff’s life over 25 years ago. She was a successful advertising executive living in Manhattan. Her life was full and her schedule even more so.
Crossing 56th street one day, she heard a panhandler’s voice. “Excuse me, lady, I’m really hungry. Do you have any spare change?” She dismissed the request, moving quickly through the intersection.
Somewhere in the middle of the intersection is where that moment happened for Laura. That decision. Where the relationship started. Laura stopped, turned around and went back to meet the panhandler. His name was Maurice, and he was only 11 years old. She said she didn’t want to give him money, but she would buy him some food at McDonald’s.
For many, that would be it. A single act of goodwill. Not for Laura and Maurice. The one meal became a weekly dinner for years. Their relationship has continued to grow over the past twenty-five years.
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Dan Rather on stage in New York. It was a surreal moment for me. After all, I grew up watching the network news trio of Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings. I had watched Dan Rather interview world leaders. Tough interviews. Now I would be interviewing him about his life, which he has chronicled in Rather Outspoken: My Life in the News, a book I couldn’t put down. And that’s a good thing because I read it several times along with everything else I could about Dan Rather before our interview. I always prepare, but I definitely stepped it up knowing I was interviewing one of the world’s most prominent news anchors.
Years ago, I had casually met him once before in a hotel in Dallas. He was covering a story, and I was attending a Board meeting. I found myself in the elevator with the news legend. We only spoke a few words and we were both off running in different directions. I recalled his personal warmth but also could sense his intensity.
Before our on stage interview, we were to meet in the little green room backstage. I was waiting when I heard his trademark baritone voice through the curtain. He was very personable, humble and focused on everyone else. At 80, he is as sharp as ever. We started talking and I wish I had every minute on tape. His firsthand account of modern history is riveting. I asked him if we could sit down and turn on the camera for a few minutes before we jumped on stage. He agreed.
Dan Rather worked for CBS for 44 years and anchored the CBS Evening News for 24 of those years. At the same time, he appeared on 48 Hours and 60 Minutes II. He currently anchors Dan Rather Reports on AXS TV. Dan Rather has won numerous Emmy Awards for broadcast journalism and the Peabody Award.
In this backstage eleven-minute interview, we talked about the story that had the biggest impact on him, whether work-life balance was possible, how having rheumatic fever as a child shaped him, and finally his views on journalism today.
I started our talk with the discussion on the subject of leadership. Having personally known so many presidents and world leaders, what would Dan Rather say were the characteristics of a leader?