Author: Donna-Marie Rowe
While on a trip to St. Vincent, we heard a story that resonated with every listener. The rapt audience consisted of participants in a seminal Leadership Development Programme under the Caribbean Leadership Project. The main characters in the story were a beggar and baker.
The beggar had a familiar response to the baker, who gifted him with a loaf of bread daily. The man who needed the bread for his sustenance often told the baker, ‘Whatever good you do, you do it for yourself. Whatever bad you do, you do it for yourself.’ This was to be medicine for the heart of the baker especially since the beggar could not repay him.
For years the beggar went to the baker begging for bread and daily the baker would oblige and give him a loaf. Daily the beggar reminded the baker that whatever good he did, he did for himself and whatever bad he did, he did for himself. This went on for an enormously long time. One day the beggar went by the baker’s and instead of receiving the usual loaf of bread, he was given a sandwich. The beggar was pleasantly surprised and reminded the baker that whatever good he did, he did so for himself and whatever bad he did, he did so for himself.
The beggar decided to take home the sandwich as he wanted to cherish it a little longer than normal. After all it was not just a loaf of bread as he was used to. He would enjoy the sandwich at home.
On his way he met the baker’s two sons who had gone hunting. They knew their father was always kind to the beggar by giving him a loaf of bread. They were hungry and so they asked the beggar if their father had given him the usual loaf of bread today. They were so hungry they told the beggar that if he gave them the bread they would ensure that their father gave him two loaves tomorrow instead.
The beggar thought long and hard about the sandwich which he received for the first time from the baker and thought, “These are his sons, let me give to them the sandwich which the baker gave me for he has been so kind to me over these many years.” The beggar gave the baker’s sons the sandwich. They devoured it and went on their way.
In the night, the sons started to feel ill and cried out in their pain to their father for help. Their father was astonished at their writhing and wanted to know what they had eaten that day. The boys said, “Nothing, other than the sandwich which the beggar got from you”.
The father held his head in disbelief and wept bitterly. He had planned that day to get rid of the beggar once and for all for he was tired of the begging. He had poisoned the sandwich which he now found out his sons ate. His beloved sons died that night and it was then that the baker remembered the beggar’s recurring words …but it was too late.
Oh how devastated the baker must have been at the end of the day. The evil he concocted, unfortunately impacted his own house and heart. He got weary in well doing but he never did it from a clean heart in the first place. What was he thinking?
The good you do…you do for yourself…eventually
Leaders, at times, are drunk with power. We see that on the world stage even in this time of crisis when decisions need to be made for the benefit of all.
Leadership requires that we look at our purpose…to bring out the best in the people who we lead and to inspire and elicit that which they did not even know they had within themselves. The good you do in investing in your direct reports will see you and your team reaping the successes of growth and increased capacity. Don’t be weary. Keep making the bold moves. Care more than everyone else. Be watchful over your hearts, your intentions and motivations. Be careful of minimising thoughts. Do good, even more so, for those who cannot repay you.
But is it always true that when you do good, you will get good in return? That question may be badgering your mind especially if you are the recipient of a difficult situation, my euphemism for a toxic environment of betrayal, false accusations, covetousness, malice and just pure evil. Instead of complaining and becoming bitter, become better. That is not a cliche. It is the thing to do. It is through these situations that leaders grow. It is through the crisis…the discomfort… that you develop new skills and find new levels of maturity and growth. This is one good that you will be sure to reap. Your faith anchors you in these times when you are shoved outside of your comfort zone. Be encouraged to be the light and go beyond yourself… anyway.
People are illogical, unreasonable and self centered. Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.Excerpt from the “Anyway” poem by Kent M. Keith
Be sure to share your thoughts on when you went beyond yourself especially outside your comfort zone and the outcomes.
PS. It is a great moment to honour the memory of my late beloved Daddy, Donald A. Wallace, who would have celebrated his birthday today. He and my Mom, Doris, went beyond themselves and taught me the joys of writing.
Donna-Marie Rowe has been the Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) since 2009 and is the recipient of the prestigious RJRGleaner Honour Award 2019 for Public Service for her inspiring leadership of the JIS, managing its transformation into a modernized government agency.