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News / Clark County News

Press Talk: The power of the thank you

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor
Published: November 19, 2016, 6:10am

“I’ll need 40 bags of 5-pound red, 80 bags of 5-pound white, and let’s also do 30 bags of 10-pound red.”

Those were the instructions from my boss, Bedford.

I had just begun my first real job — while still in high school — in the produce department at Dominick’s Finer Foods on 87th and Cicero Avenue, just outside of Chicago.

The bags were of potatoes. And it was my job to put loose potatoes in bags for sale the next day.

But that was only part of my job. I’d also have to tend to customers who came to shop in the produce department. So I’d be in the back room stuffing and twisting and tying bags and also running out to help customers.

It wasn’t easy.

When the day was over, I felt a great sense of accomplishment.

When I came to work the next day, Bedford thanked me for a job well done. When it was time for Bedford to leave, he gave me an assignment for the evening.

It was bagging potatoes again, but I noticed something different.

The number of bags he asked me to complete was slightly higher. Not so high as to break me, but just high enough to challenge me.

To get the job done that night, I had to think a little harder, figure out a different course and make better use of my time.

I made it.

Years later, I realized how important it was for me to learn that lesson at an early age of doing more than you think you can do. It has served me well.

After graduating from high school, I went away to college and began a career far away from Chicago and Dominick’s and Bedford.

Eventually Bedford would leave, and that Dominick’s store would close. I never saw Bedford again.

• • •

I was prompted to tell you this story after listening to Brad Meltzer, the featured speaker at the Fort Vancouver Regional Library Foundation’s 2016 Authors & Illustrators Dinner.

Meltzer is the No. 1 New York Times bestselling author of “The Inner Circle.” He has had several other best-sellers, has hosted TV shows and is an inspirational speaker. 

I rarely say this, but he was mesmerizing.

His presentation to the library foundation was based on a TED talk he did and had to do with how we all can make an impact in the world.

Meltzer discussed making an impact through the lens of what we want our legacy to be. And, he emphasized, one need not be rich or famous to accomplish this.

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Meltzer said if you encourage one person with a kind word, you might not ever know how much impact you’ve had on that person.

And if you and I — and everyone — independently do this, collectively we will make the world a better place.

“If you look out for your community, the community will look out for you,” he said.

He ended his discussion — and his TED talk presentation — this way:

“You do good, you help others, you go say thank you, you will not just live a better life, you will live forever.”

• • •

My takeaway is that we all matter. You don’t have to be an elected official or an important business owner or even a community leader.

What you have to be is someone who knows that what they say and do will matter. That you can make a difference.

And as we sit down with friends and relatives on Thursday — that very important day of giving thanks — push aside the turkey and dressing for one moment. Look at the person sitting next to you. Smile and say thank you. 

I never had a chance to say it privately to Bedford, but if you’re out there, my friend….

Thank you.

Columbian Editor