You Are One Question Away

You are one question away from changing someone’s life.

One QuestionHow do you respond to people who you encounter who are grumpy, demanding, bossy and out of sorts so to speak?  What do you do in the line at the airport when the person who is checking your ID and boarding pass is non-communicative, irritated with the people in the line, and short with everyone who comes to his podium?  The natural tendency is to look at the situation from the way it affects you.  If you are like most, you start making statements like, just like Gov’t employees, they don’t care. Snide remarks begin captivating your vocabulary like TSA stands for Thousands Standing Around.  Other words come to your mind when describing the actions of the person and they get more insulting and hurtful in your mind the closer you get to the podium to have your very existence questioned by this person.

It is now your turn and you turn the tables and ask “Are you having fun yet today?”  The agent looks up quickly with a cold stare and then turns his eyes back toward the desk and comments in a somber tone “I am never going to have fun again the rest of my life.”  At this point, you have one of two options.  The first is to internally ramp up your distaste for this individual and reaffirm everything you thought about him while standing in line. The second choice is to change the focus from you to him and ask one question.  “What happened that caused you to lose all hope?”

The agent looked and said “the story is too long to cover here.”  He looked down again and uttered, “My son died two months ago.”   One question in a moment of contact uncovered the deep wound in his life that explained everything about his actions that morning.  This answer caused an immediate change from cynicism to compassion.

With tears in his eyes, he looked back up.  I turned my body to shield him from view of the others in the line and told him, “I am probably one of the few people that will come through your line that will understand the level of pain you are feeling right now.  We lost our 18 year old son 14 years ago.  The pain will never completely go away, but that is O.K. as it is the mechanism that will always remind you of him.  The pain will however diminish to a point in the future that you will again feel joy and happiness.  You will most certainly have fun again in your life.  One of the most difficult things to do at this time is to introduce new people into your life, but if you ever want to talk about what you are going through, or how we got through this, here is my card.”

The entire exchange took less than a minute. Drying his eyes he thanked me for the encouragement and hope.

I do not ever anticipate hearing from him, but that is alright.  If you view life as an adventure, you do not have to know the outcomes of every situation you encounter.  You only have to focus on your role at the time of the encounter. In fact knowing the outcome creates pride and arrogance that causes us to again focus on ourselves instead of others.

Try a question you are comfortable with to help someone make even the slightest change in their day. When you are buying gas, getting coffee, picking up the dry cleaning, focus on them instead of you.  Leave people better off because you walked through the door into their life today.  It is the greater way to travel through life.  Join me on that Greater Journey.





  1. This is very profound Ron!
    We must never forget there’s always something else going on in everyone’s life.
    Keep the posts coming – so enjoy reading your excellent insights on “The Greater Journey”
    Can’t wait for your book to come out! Good luck!

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