Then last week at the local gym, I observed a 10-second scene that could change the world — if we let it.
I was wrapping up a workout at the Valley Health Wellness and Fitness Center in Winchester, Virginia. As I packed my gym bag and double-checked my locker, employee Greg Brondos came around the corner rolling a large cart of white, wet and dirty towels. I recognized him from the membership department and listened as another man near me, presumably a friend, asked what he was doing.
Brondos quietly explained that he’d noticed the towels needed to be serviced and that he looks for opportunities to help where he can, even when it’s not his job.
A few minutes later as I left, I saw Brondos again and asked about the exchange. “Excuse me. I was eavesdropping back there and I heard you say it’s not normally your responsibility to help with the towels. That’s not something you usually do?”
“Not really,” he said, and his curious eyebrows arched higher than the McDonald’s logo. I couldn’t tell whether he was intrigued by my nosiness, slightly alarmed, or just sizing me up and wondering whether he could outrun me. (He can.)
“It’s not my job, but I saw that it needed to be done,” he added. “I’m a Cub Scout leader and I always tell my boys that if they see something out of place, they should pick it up and take care of it. Doesn’t matter whether it’s theirs or not.”
He smiled. “So, I guess I better do the same.”
I complimented him on an unusual attitude in today’s me-first world. “Your Cubs are lucky to have you.”
With humility, and probably a dose of embarrassment at the attention, he added his opinion that if every one of us looked for opportunities to do things that might not necessarily be our responsibility, the world would be a much better place.
We said goodbye, and little did he know I was writing this column in my head before I even hit the parking lot.
It’s just a pile of wet towels, I thought. It’s just a small thing, right?
His attitude is a rarity in today’s selfish and self-centered world. The planet doesn’t just spin around itself; it spins around each of us. All too often we’re the center of every universe we occupy. Our needs, troubles and time are much more important than those of our neighbors.
Spend time in most restaurants, corporate boardrooms or cubicle farms and I promise you’ll hear at least some of this dialogue:
“Not my job.”
“Not my problem.”
“Wow! Glad that’s not my mess.”
I know, because I haven’t just heard those lines, I’ve said them.
Imagine a community, school or family where every single set of eyes was focused on the messes and how best to clean them up.
Imagine if every business or government body — local, state or federal — fostered this culture of messiness accountability.
What if the first person on scene was always the one to clean up the towels — literally and figuratively?
What if everyone’s response to an odd question from an odd stranger was, “I just saw that it needed to be done.”
I hope that someone who knows Greg Brondos and his Cub Scouts shares this with them at a future pack meeting. They should know that their leader doesn’t just talk the talk; he walks the walk.
And when he is walking, he even takes care of the dirty towels.