Values, not fame
There are very few absolutes in life. However, I feel confident in saying that you probably haven’t heard of Mable Falcon. She was born in 1920, daughter of a depression-era sharecropper. She endured much suffering in her life, a victim of cruel poverty and a crueller father. Mable is a demonstration of someone whose values not fame led to greatness.
From cruel beginnings
Her father was a brutal man who ran moonshine stills to complement meagre earnings of being a sharecropper in the deep south USA during the most economically depressed time in American history. Often he would arrive late at night, inebriated, line his children up and choose one to beat while the others were forced to watch. At age six Mable had an unfortunate accident when she slipped on a wet porch and broke her hip. She lay in bed for three days in total agony because her father refused to get her medical treatment. He simply said, “Let her die.”
Fortunately, word got out and one of the locals transported her to a doctor who was able to set her hip. Mable kept the handmade crutches as some sort of badge of honour to remind her she survived.
Mable also never had much of a chance for education. Rather than learning how to read and write she was forced to cook for the family while the rest of them laboured in the fields. The highest education level she reached was the third grade. This was something that haunted her throughout her life.
Though only four feet, eleven inches Mable was a force to be reckoned with. What she lacked in size she made up in fight and spirit.
She married a WWII soldier who was there at the Normandy invasion and again at the Battle of Bulge and Bastogne. After the war, she and her husband settled down to raise a family. Mable would be considered an entrepreneur in today’s world. She tried her hand in the restaurant business, success at first but a failure in the end as her business partner absconded with funds leaving her deep in debt.
Her lack of education limited her in the ability to understand financial statements and the world of business. However, her character persevered and all creditors were paid in full, even at a great sacrifice. This is indeed showing that values, not fame is the measure of success. Her experience taught her to be frugal for the remainder of her life. This lesson was one that was learned.
Mable strived to continuously get better when opportunities presented themselves. As a result, she would practice her reading skills to her children at night. She read from the Bible and her favourite book was the Book of Job. I guess the parallels resonated with her. Both had their Faith severely tested.
In spite of her own struggles, she became active in helping others less fortunate than her. Mable became involved in local politics and was called on several times to testify before her state legislature on matters that affected the less fortunate. She also developed an acute sense of humour and learned how to use it properly. Most people who met her had an instant fondness for her. She was recognized as someone who was down to earth, easy to communicate with and always ready to help. Today we would label her generosity as “paying it forward” but back then it was simply doing the right thing.
An example of her kindness was reflected in a gesture of hers occurring when her husband was confined to a nursing home. She took money out of her own pocket and purchased a commercial popcorn machine. Several days a week, she would arrive at the nursing home, pop the popcorn and deliver it to patients confined to their rooms. Of course, the ones who were ambulatory made sure they were present when Mable was there on popcorn day. There was a spirit about her. This spirit cannot be taught but it is definitely #inspirational.
Mable was just one of many of her generation who made a difference in other people’s lives. She will never be remembered with any distinction to anyone but me and a handful of others. You see, Mable was my Mother.
She instilled in me a set of values that provide me guidance to this day. She portrayed a resiliency second to none and inspired me to demonstrate the same. It is when I reflect on her overwhelming hardships I am inspired to pick myself up during my own difficult times. I am comforted to know that her spirit continues to encourage a path that I know is right.
As a leader, I understand how important it is to know where your values come from. Why? Because these are deeply seated in your conscious and your unconscious. They guide you in your own decision-making process whether personal or business. Your values encourage you to swim. Absent them and you may sink. A leader who does not connect the dots between their values and their actions will continue to be lost in the moment. They will search for meaning and find it difficult to lead others consistently…and with purpose.
When your values are challenged by negativity personally or within an organization there is a smell of failure and discomfort in the air. However, when there is alignment success follows. Find your inspiration and you will find your values. Find your values and you will have direction.
Yes, Mable will never be remembered as a great person to others, but she is great in my eyes. Her Faith, spirit and generosity have inspired me to stay true to myself and as a result, true to others I come in contact with. Her spirit reminds me that it is values, not fame that leads to greatness.
George Garrett, SPHR. SHRM-SCP is a founding member of Future Focus Group, LLC, based in Houston, TX. George has spent his entire career in human resources leadership and consulting. He has contributed to and written extensively for several publications in both the US and Europe. He is certified by both the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) as a senior practitioner. George also holds a certification in Employee Relations Law from the Institute for Applied Management and Law. He is a Distinguished Toastmaster through Toastmasters International and delivers powerful, engaging talks regarding the changing field of human resources. George is a Texas native and co-author of “Evolved…Engaging People, Enhancing Success”, released in late 2014.