Mel's Going Away Gift
--by brighteyes, posted Sep 10, 2008
Several years ago, I was promoted to supervisor. I was so excited about being promoted, but little did I know, more importantly, how many valuable life lessons I would learn while in this position.
Early on, I was short-handed and needed another staff member. Management and my senior staff joined me in interviewing the candidates and after much deliberation and voting, we hired a guy called Melvin -- or Mel as he liked to be called. He was a character of sorts -- a retired cop, thick skinned, street smart, tough and rough around the edges. Mel had much experience in the real world, but I wasn't sure he would be a good fit for the group or the company.
When Mel first joined our team, he teased us relentlessly, cussed up a storm and was loud and aggressive, but after some time we all got used to him and realized that he actually added some life to our group. Underneath that gruff exterior, Mel was ultra reliable, honest, hard-working, resourceful and possessed a heart of gold. From the start, he was always looking out for others by loaning money to one worker, changing a flat tire for another, mentoring a third and sharing his life lessons.
Eventually, our company was bought out and we were forced to cut our staff in half. A week before the layoff announcement, I was surprised when Mel requested a lunch meeting, as he was not on the layoff "riff" list, and I was sure he knew this. When we got to the restaurant, Mel being Mel, he got straight to business and said: "Layoffs are coming and I'd like to volunteer to be on the list." But, Mel had a really unique set of conditions.
His first condition was that he wanted to offer his slot to someone he guessed was on the layoff list, a young male male worker whom he had taken under his wing and was mentoring. Mel explained to me that this co-worker was going through a nasty divorce that took up all his time and energy, and he could really use the stability of a job right now.
Mel's second condition was that his retirement package should be paid to an elderly widow. "I've got a little nest egg, so I'll be fine," he casually remarked. Mel told me that he knew this woman hadn't worked long enough to get a package, but she sure could use that security because she didn't have any other source's of support in her old age.
I was blown away by listening to the ease with which Mel offered to give away his job and entire retirement package. To top it off, he insisted that our conversation stay private and that those two colleagues NEVER find out about his involvement in this. Completely anonymous. Surprisingly, the management agreed to Mel's conditions and to this day, that young co-worker and the elderly widow don't know what Mel did for them.
I will never forget Mel! I salute all unsung kindness heroes like Mel that will never get covered on CNN but whose spirit will uplift humanity for a long time to come.