Saturday, November 12, 2011

Wealthiest Man in Toronto

I had a great experience tonight...

Background: I have been coaching a weekly leadership course in Toronto the past few months, and usually spend my meal breaks with the program leader and another coach, two very successful businessman. Both really terrific guys, from whom I learn a lot, and I enjoy our meals together. Naturally, their conversations occasionally turn to their respective companies and investments. At times like these, I often feel somewhat out of my element. While I got clear a few years ago that high finance is not in my baileywick, I have to admit that I sometimes get mesmerized by the figures they are throwing back and forth. 

Tonight: Walking back from dinner, we took the long route to pick up some coffees on the way. I was trailing a few feet behind, as they were engaged in a business conversation. We passed a homeless woman who asked me for change. I smiled at the irony of her not making her request of these two much better "heeled" gentlemen, but reached into my pocket and gave her $5.00

When we got to the coffee shop I said it was my treat (only fair, as one of the other guys had picked up the dinner tab). As I went to pay I noticed an old, poorly dressed woman digging in her shabby purse for change, so I offered to pay for hers as well, of which she was very appreciative.

Halfway between the coffee shop and our destination, there was a busker - playing his guitar and singing. 

He was only moderately talented but had good energy. I would have stopped to enjoy for a minute, but my companions had hurried by. So, I tossed in my last loonie and hustled to catch up. I began reflecting on how different our daily lives are, realizing that they live in downtown Toronto and probably do not even notice these urban characters anymore.

It was just then that I looked up and had my breath taken away by the most gorgeous sight. An enormous harvest moon was just beginning its climb into the cool night sky, and completely filled the space between two skyscrapers ahead of us. Knowing that this was not an everyday sight for them, I pointed it out immediately. We all admired the moon together for a few seconds before they returned to their conversation.

This left me free to walk the last three blocks silently, basking in this lunar magnificence, savouring my coffee, and feeling warm and fuzzy about my little acts of kindness. All told I was out less than $15 (including dinner, so I may have even been ahead!!), and felt that the whole experience was a wonderful bargain.

That is how, with pockets literally empty, I found myself the wealthiest man in Toronto.

(Author's note: In responding to a comment on Facebook I realized that I should clarify that I have nothing but admiration for my two dinner companions. They are actually extraordinary people who really do "get it". I know them both to be generous and appreciative of life, and see them as a contribution in the world.  I don't begrudge them the perfectly valid conversation they were having, and also acknowledge that they can't give money to every homeless person they encounter living in Toronto. My intended expression was simply that instead of feeling like I had less than they do I was able to realize that I actually have more than I need, and that the very best part of the evening (in my opinion) was absolutely free to anyone who chose to experience the beauty of a full, harvest moon. We can all miss beautiful moments from time to time. I am just grateful that I was "present" to something different than they were in this case :)


  1. Johnny - JT read this to me while we were driving and I enjoyed it SO much. I would definitely say you are the wealthiest man in all of Canada because you have been blessed with a mind and heart that can see a side of things most people cannot. It is a rare gift that only a few really special people have. Thank you for sharing - you're such a great man and deserve only good things in life. :) <3

  2. Thanks Bolestridges! The admiration is mutual. Looking forward to rucking with you in Iowa :)