Have you ever ever met a hero, someone who inspires you each and every day?
He was your prototypical “starving artist.” Never cared about materialistic things, didn’t even own a car. Wasn’t concerned about the latest, greatest tech or even a big-screen TV. He just loved to converse with people, draw (self-taught) and stay current on what was happening in the world around him.
At the age of 68, he passed way from MS (multiple sclerosis), was a quadriplegic who wasn’t able to do any of the things we all take for granted that we do every day, such as brush your teeth, go to the bathroom or have the ability to have that glorious hot shower or bath.
His art was truly amazing and has been sold and displayed all over the United States. He led a very quiet life even including the last 10 years of his existence at Montefiore in Beachwood as one of their “youngest” residents.
The following are just a few reasons he was a hero to so many of the people that knew him.
Never said, “Why me?”
Sure we all complain about customer service (or the lack of it) or issues that we cannot get resolved, but not once in the
50-plus years that we were friends, did I ever hear him say anything about the raw deal he got having multiple sclerosis and all the sacrifices he made due to his disease.
He always had hope. He never quit and always was hopeful in a new trial, study or something that was going to fix his broken body. He truly believed that he was going to be able to beat this disease.
He saw humor in everything. Allen’s glass was half-full. He had a childlike view of the world and was always positive.
His day was always “fantastic,” if you conversed with him in the lobby at Montefiore as their official greeter, and as we affectionately called him “the mayor.”
He had you laughing up until his final breath. Literally one the of the last things he said to us while he was conscious (the morphine kept him fairly sedated) was when we asked him on the second last day of his life in hospice, “Allen, are you comfortable?” His response without hesitation was, “I make a nice living.”
He never tried to impress you with his amazing talent. Allen never showed off his artistic brilliance or talked about how talented he was – his work was amazing –
and was very humble about his gift of being able to draw almost anything with exceptional detail.
He cared about others and always asked about “your day.”
Each and every conversation was about the other person – not him – or things that held his curiosity. He sincerely cared about who he was having a conversation with and wanted to hear what was going on in their lives.
All he wanted were a Geraci’s pizza and Starbucks coffee.
If you did visit “the mayor,” be prepared to have a conversation with him. He so longed for people to come and chat with him and that is what kept his spirit alive. He needed the sociability – as we all do – as something to look forward to.
Think about it. You are in a wheelchair – or bedridden his last year – and all you do is wait.
You wait to get someone to dress you in the morning, you wait to get fed, you wait for someone to get you ready for bed at night, you wait for your favorite TV program (that someone has to get the correct channel for you on the TV) and you wait for that occasional visitor.
If you did come to visit, the best part was the huge smile on his face if you brought him a Starbucks coffee or a slice of that Geraci’s pizza.
We can all learn from Allen. I know that I did.
Hal Becker is a nationally known speaker on sales and customer service. He is the author of numerous business books including two national best sellers, “Can I Have 5 Minutes Of Your Time?” and “Lip Service.” Hal’s newest book on sales is titled “Ultimate Sales Book.” He can be reached at Halbecker.com.