I had no idea that petrol stations and beekeepers would casually collide and collaborate. Who knows what chance encounters can have profound impacts and make you value your contribution?

Forty years ago I was a teenager. To earn a few pounds I was working in a petrol station at the weekends and holidays. I found the job unpleasantly boring and inconsequential. So much so that I didn’t spend too much time trying to impress my friends with the calibre of my casual work. Quite late one evening, a guy came in to buy petrol and a sandwich. We started chatting and he said that he was really tired from his long journey and needed a cup of coffee to stay awake. Forty years ago petrol stations did not serve coffee (at least not this one).

The coffee was not a problem as we had a kettle in the back office. The chat continued about his work as a beekeeper and that he was speaking at a conference in Birmingham the following day. We chatted about bees for a while, he spoke with such eloquence and conviction and I was entranced by his words and suddenly remarkably interested in these fascinating creatures.

Perhaps he was lucky to have a job that he loved and I commented that working in a petrol station bore no comparison?

A huge surprise

To which he replied, “Working in a petrol station is a key job. You’re providing a service to those who need you. My car needs petrol. I need fuel too and without my cup of coffee, I don’t think it would be safe for me to drive one more mile. Your presence here tonight means a great deal to me and to my audience tomorrow.

“When a humble bee goes about its business, it has no idea of the impact it has on plants, crops, the food chain, and the biosphere. But if all those bees gave up on their daily tasks or became extinct it would have a calamitous impact on human beings and what we describe as everyday life. Everybody makes a difference no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. Everybody makes a contribution. Each and every one of us has value. Don’t ever underestimate yourself or your work. The world needs you and your efforts.”

Every time I visit a petrol station I remember this moment. I reflect on how important petrol stations are to us. It also reminds me of the impact a complete stranger can have on you. Talking passionately about something that has significance to you really makes a huge difference.

I love this story and any like it that make you value your contribution. I love sharing it with anybody who has doubts about their ability to impact life.

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Vince is a well-known speaker/trainer and has won a number of awards for leadership, education and development. He is a founder of the College of Public Speaking and works as Education Director managing all aspects of course delivery and content.