Wednesday, September 15, 2010


“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” ~ Aristotle

Labor Day, fifteen years ago, our house caught fire. It happened around 8 in the evening. Rob, Charles, and I were talking in the living room — this is significant, because my teenaged sons were actually communicating with me, even using full sentences! I was in Heaven. Our subject? Armageddon. Isn’t that funny? While we talked about the end of the world, Armageddon was happening in our house and we didn’t have any idea, until Olivia noticed flashing lights in the office. She thought William was playing on the computer and peeked in to find the room on fire.

Fortunately, Rob thought of grabbing the cordless phone as we ran out of the house. We called 911 and watched an orange ball of fire consume our home. Neighbors came out with their phones asking who we wanted them to call. I couldn’t think, my mind had become a traffic jam of emotions, thoughts, and worry. One neighbor asked where we were insured. I told them Allstate and our insurance rep was Dale Johnson. She made the call.

Just minutes after the fire department arrived, Dale drove up. He comforted me and told me not to worry, he would help us through this disaster. Losing stuff really didn’t bother me, it was the irreplaceable things that hurt my heart. I watched the hungry flames consume the letters my father had written my grandmother while he served in the Korean War, all of my children’s baby books that contained letters I had written them while I carried them. I had planned on giving those letters to them when they were expecting their first child. Photos, family memorabilia, all lost. But I didn’t experience the same despair over those things as my son Charles felt about his guitar. He had saved for months to buy his first guitar, a blue Fender Stratocaster. We literally had to hold him back from running into the burning house in an effort to save it. He finally collapsed on the street curb and cried.

After the flames were put out, Dale walked with the fire chief through the house. Several minutes later he walked out with a blackened guitar case and handed it to Charles. With tender trepidation, Charles opened the case and found his guitar in perfect condition. The combination of joy and relief still thrills my heart today.

Dale went the extra mile by walking through the muddy ash to find that guitar, and then checking to make sure it was in good condition before handing it to Charles. I will always appreciate this man’s excellence.

To go the extra mile is to make more of an effort than is expected of you. By doing this you not only make a positive difference in the lives of others, the rewards of such excellence follow.

This weekend Neal and I went out to lunch at the Texas Land and Cattle Steakhouse in Rogers. We were seated and the hostess asked us for our drink orders and brought them to us. Then nothing. After a while the manager asked us if we were going to be eating anything and Neal casually answered, “Yes, when we get a menu.” The manager looked surprised and hurried to bring us a menu. When he handed them to us he said, “Your lunches will be on the house today for our oversight.”

Wow! He told us that before we ordered! Neal and I were surprised because we had enjoyed talking, not thinking a thing about the delay. But the manager went that extra mile. We ordered a lunch portion (we resisted ordering the most expensive thing on the menu) of steak medallions and I must say our lunches were excellent! Plus, because of that manager’s attentiveness, we will be back and we do recommend that restaurant.

I’ve heard it said, “Average is the best of the worst and the worst of the best.” We don’t want to be the best of the worst, do we? This week, go the extra mile. Do more than is expected of you. Let us all begin practicing excellence as a habit.

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