A Pure and Selfless Motive Can Move Mountains

(Note: This true story, told by my co-author Jerry Panas, was published as a chapter in our book Power Relationships)

In Oswego, Kansas, people are mighty proud of their twelve-bed community hospital. There are other hospitals in larger neighboring cities. But people in Oswego wouldn’t think of going anywhere for their healthcare other than their local hospital.

One person told me, “We get here whatever you can get at Mayo. Except the staff is friendlier here.” Well, that may be a stretch. But that’s how folks in Oswego feel about their hospital.

Mary Jane Cummins is the Development Director at the hospital. That means she raises money for the hospital. She splits her time between that and admitting patients. The Development Office is in the basement of the hospital, in a corner tucked away in a long corridor. You need to really want to get to Mary Jane’s office in order to make the trip.

Mary Jane doesn’t have any training in raising funds. But she’s passionate about the hospital and totally dedicated. That outstrips experience every time. For over a decade, Sam Anderson comes by her office every year. It’s usually in October. He calls ahead to make certain Mary Jane will be around. It’s obvious they have a strong relationship. He likes her (everyone does). She likes him.

In he walks. Bib overalls and a plaid shirt. As far as Mary Jane can remember, it’s the same bib overalls and plaid shirt all these years. She thinks it may be his dress-up to come to town from his farm.

“Mary Jane, here’s my twenty-five dollars. I wish it could be more. I love the hospital. I hope this will help some.” They hug and Sam leaves. He’s been giving the same amount, twenty-five dollars, for all these years.

In December of each year, Mary Jane bakes bread for her “special people.” Sam’s gift is one of the smallest at the hospital, but to Mary Jane, she knows Sam stretches to make it. He is one of her special people. Her visits with the bread are always a few days before Christmas. She travels all over Oswego to deliver the homemade bread. And usually last on the route is Sam’s farmhouse.

Fast forward, as they say. This last year, Sam lost his soul mate. It was in August. He and Agnes had been married for 57 years. Sam didn’t make his regular October visit with his gift. Mary Jane called him several times, but never said anything about the gift.

Now it’s Christmas. Even though he didn’t make a gift, Mary Jane bakes Sam a loaf of bread. She adds some cookies to the package. She drives out to the farm. They talk for a long time. She holds his hand, tells him how desperately sorry she is about his losing Agnes.

Mary Jane is so pleased she has made the trip. She’s heard Sam has become a recluse since Agnes died. He doesn’t leave the house. It’s time to leave. She gives him the bread and cookies, along with a long hug. It has been a love-filled visit.

“Just a minute, Mary Jane, before you get ready to leave. I have something I’ve been planning to give you.” He leaves for the bedroom.

Before continuing this story, I am going to give you the Law that explains the bond between Mary Jane and Sam. It’s this: A selfless motive creates a powerful relationship. It’s when neither party is trying to gain something. A pure motivation is the most wonderful catalyst for building relationships.

Now back to my story. You remember that Mary Jane is ready to leave. Sam asks her to wait a moment. He goes into his bedroom. In a few minutes, he comes out with two huge shopping bags. He staggers under the weight. He tells Mary Jane that he will help her carry the bags to the car.

“Agnes and I decided five or so years ago we were going to make a trip. In all our years, we have never been outside of Oswego— except for our honeymoon in Topeka.

“We started saving coins and some spare dollar bills whenever we could. We really scratched. There was never much left over. The last time I counted, there was over $2,000.

“A couple times a month, we would skip dinner. That way, we could throw a couple extra bucks into our get-away bag.

“I guess I’m not going to be able now to make that trip with Agnes. I’d like the money instead to go to the hospital.”

They hug. Cry. And finally say goodbye. He shouts as the car passes by, “And thanks for the bread. Agnes always loved it.”

Isn’t it inspiring to be in the presence of someone whose intentions are pure and who gives freely and selflessly?

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