I remember my son at age 2 meeting his first celebrity. Belle wore a beautiful tufted yellow dress, and although there were hoards of people waiting for her attention, in the moment he first bravely approached her, Princess Belle made Charlie the priority.
It seems like that kind of kindness between “celebrities” and the rest of us only happens in fairy tales and at the Magic Kingdom. But maybe not.
Matt Zinman, from Newtown, Pa., is a speaker, writer and podcaster whose goal is to enrich the lives of 100 million people by the year 2025. He still remembers the man who first took the time to enrich his life in a brief interaction.
“The story I would like to share occurred nearly 30 years ago. Patrick J. Jackson Jr. was an industry superstar who I had the honor of meeting at my very first professional conference for the Public Relations Society of America.
“Pat delivered on his reputation. I easily recall that his presentation was well-attended with everyone fully engaged and happy to hear Pat at his best.
“Afterward was the typical ‘meet-and-greet’ session in which attendees lined up, introduced themselves to the speaker and posed follow-up questions.
“I don’t remember what it was I had in mind to ask Mr. Jackson or even my reasons why. What I do recall is standing in line trying to collect my thoughts. My heart was racing. I’m not sure I’d ever been so nervous and the feeling completely took me by surprise.
“The closer I got to the front of the line, the more I wrestled with self-doubts and fears that he’d think less of me.
“On the outside, I would like to think that I maintained a certain degree of poise and professionalism. However, I must have acted timidly in mentioning something to Mr. Jackson about the importance of the time he was about to take to speak with me.
“In that very moment, with a certain mentorlike tone, he asked, ‘Well, isn’t this your time, too?’ I may have stuttered briefly but I acknowledged that I understood this to be both his and my time. He replied, ‘Well, if this is both our time, I don’t see why my time is any more important than yours. Now, what’s your question?’
“I’ll always remember how good that made me feel and how my nervousness suddenly just washed away. His act of kindness changed my life right then and there. I had held a perception that I was less important, whereas Pat appreciated me as someone eager to speak with him.
“He possessed the healthy ego to show equal respect along with humility and humbleness to emphasize his belief that we are no more important than any other person.
“Even more impactful is that he gave me the gift of being able to do the same for others whenever they express thinking less of themselves.”
You can get to know Matt and hear his “Insights to Live By” podcast at www.mattzinman.com.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nicole J. Phillips, a former Fargo television anchor, is a speaker, author and host of The Kindness Podcast. She lives in Aberdeen, S.D., with her three children and her husband, Saul Phillips, the head men’s basketball coach at Northern State University. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.