Ted- A Story Of Hope

Sometimes in life all you need is a leg-up… 

This is dedicated to my friend who had the courage to put his reputation on the line for another.  

The first time that I met Ted, I was walking apartment units on one of our projects under construction.  As I walked I could hear the rhythm of an active broom on the dusty concrete floor.  Make no mistake, this was the sound of someone really working a broom.  As I entered the room where I heard to broom music, there was Ted.  A thin man with boney shoulders and wild brown hair.  The kind of hair you get when you wake up in the morning and forget to put it to the comb.  Ted immediately stopped sweeping and greeted me.  “It’s looking good isn’t it?”  Ted’s smile was large, exposing some missing teeth and some serious dental problems.  I immediately agreed and told him that it was really coming together.  I remember thinking, “What a positive comment coming from a laborer!”  Ted continued, “Jim just went that way, do you want me to show you where he is?”  I responded, “No, I’ll catch up to him later, I just need to look around a bit.”  I remember thinking, “Who would offer to drop everything to help me out?”  He doesn’t even know who I am.  See, I was the big boss.  But he knew who I was.  He sensed it.


Ted was a day laborer.  Some in our business call these folks “rent-a-drunk” because many of the workers have serious substance abuse problems.  The day laborer gets paid in cash every day after each day is done.  Often they will use the money to get high and then do it all over again the next day.  A crazy, sad and destructive lifestyle.

The invisible people

Ted was part of the invisible people.  People that are there, yet they are unnoticeable or sometimes even hard to look at.  They can blend in as you go through life or you may even look away.  You walk by them every day.  People who need to be noticed in order to be able to move forward.  To make a real change in their lives.  They are in front of us everyday.  All we need to do is stop, look and decide to reach out.

About a month after I met Ted, the project manager for the project came to me and asked if we could hire Ted.  Make him a full fledged employee.  I was very skeptical.  I could see a train wreck on the horizon.  I asked, “What happens when Ted comes to work drunk?”  I was stereotyping.  The project manager told me that Ted didn’t drink.  He told me what he knew about him.  He told me about his work ethic and his limited family connections.  He told me that he was already functioning in the role, even though he wasn’t an actual employee.  And most importantly- He told me that he believed in him.  And, he added that it would provide Ted with higher pay and save us money.  A win/win situation.  I was still not completely sold, but I gave him the green light to make him an offer of employment.  Shortly after our conversation, Ted accepted and he started with us as an assistant superintendent.

Ted excelled on this project and others.  He quickly moved up in responsibilities and stature.  He was promoted to framing superintendent and then punch superintendent handling the entire completion process.  Ted was the very best we had at using our PDA-based punch list system.  He was well liked and our project superintendents would actually request Ted by name to staff their projects.

So what made Ted successful?

He was a great listener.  When you explained something he was totally engaged.

He was always eager to learn.  He soaked up everything that he came in contact with.

He had great people skills.  Everyone liked him.  He had a way of getting folks on his side.

But most of all, Ted was positive.  I don’t know that I remember a time that he was not upbeat and positive.  No matter how hard the project or how bad things were, Ted stayed positive…always.

In the midst of the Great Recession, we lost Ted during a layoff.  The last I heard, Ted was working on some projects up the East Coast.  I can assure you that he is successful wherever he is.  And he has plenty of friends surrounding him.

I learned a great lesson from Ted.  Don’t draw conclusions based on circumstances.  Ted was in a tough spot in his life, but he would not allow himself to get down.  He stayed positive. He stayed friendly.  He stayed outgoing.  And it paid off for him in a big way.

I think this is the difference.  Keep your head up.  Stay engaged.  Serve others.  And the rest will come.  I now believe there is hope for everyone.  Ted refused to be invisible.  And we took a chance.  And the result was beautiful.

Have you ever reached out to the invisible people?  Do you believe in the power of positive thinking?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!

Copyright © 2013. Leading by Serving- Leadership is for Everyone!. All rights reserved.

Entertainment Expense

While vacationing recently in Costa Rica, Kathy and I had the pleasure of staying at a beautiful B&B in the central valley near San Jose.  The innkeeper was a remarkable elderly widower who was strong in her faith and equally strong in her wisdom on life. Each morning Kathy and I would enjoy our conversations about life, love and living out our faith in a way that was honoring to the Lord. 


One morning during our stay, our host commented about the incredible damaging power of the tongue.  She shared that she had been convicted lately about talking about others in a negative way and she shared about the damage that comes along with this kind of conversation.  I completely agreed with her.  Gossip and talking about others behind their back is a very easy thing to do.  I shared that I thought that talking about others can actually be a kind of entertainment- the act of talking about others and their problems can actually be fun for some and a source of enjoyment. 

My comments actually knocked her back a bit.  She commented on how my characterization of “entertainment” was especially painful to her as it seemed to hit the mark.  She pondered the description and we revisited this topic a few times during our stay as a result of my description of damaging talk and gossip- entertainment.

So what do you think?  Do you know some folks that seem to enjoy gossiping and talking negatively about others?  What can you do when you are confronted with someone who wants to rope you in?  Here are some ideas:

Respond With The Positive!  If they are focusing on merely the negative- then respond in a way that would honor the person.  Regardless of the discussion, there are always positive aspects to the story.  Bring up the good and stay out of the mud.  You will see that most gossips just won’t get any enjoyment out of the positive.  By focusing on the negative they are really lifting themselves up.  Be a person who builds up- not a person that tears down.

Confront Them!  If they are speaking out in a way that is damaging for no constructive purpose then call them out.  There are folks that really don’t realize they are being negative or damaging- they are so used to gossiping they really don’t see what they are doing.  Help them to see that speaking out has power and can be extremely damaging. 

Walk Away!  If you have friends engaged in damaging conversation and you feel uncomfortable about the discussion, then have the courage to leave.  Even by sitting in silence- you are participating.  If you are not comfortable with confronting the issues or if you are not familiar with the situation, the best choice may be to leave the conversation.  You will not regret walking away- you will regret being included if the cruelty spreads.

Think Before You Talk!  I am convinced that some peoples mouths just run faster than their heads.  Take a minute to really consider what you are about to say.  Thinking about something is far different than speaking it- and that expands even further when it’s to a group of people.  If you have to say “don’t repeat this but…” you probably need to think about it a little more before you say it.  You could be reading the situation wrong, you may have bad information, you may be misinformed.  Always default to keeping you mouth shut if you are not sure what to do.

Remember that you are a leader.  Others are watching you and learning from you- both good and bad.  Character and integrity are time sensitive.  They take a long time to gain yet they can be lost in an instant.  Don’t loose something that you will really regret later.  If you are uneasy about the conversation, then you know you should not participate.  Stay out of it.  Go find your entertainment elsewhere!     

So what do you think?  Do you find that you get “roped in” sometimes?  Do you have some tricks to avoiding gossip?  Click on “Comments” and share or hit “Like” if you agree!