A Nostalgia Trip with a Purpose:

A cousin sent me a link to a group on Facebook for individuals who grew up in our old neighborhood in Chicago. Curiosity got the better of me, and as I scrolled through the images and posts, I saw the highlight reel of my childhood and the lives of my parents and grandparents unfolding in front of me. Within moments of commenting, a friend from grammar school reached out to me. Suddenly I saw names and faces I haven’t encountered in 45 years. Love or hate the platform; it’s incredibly powerful for spanning distances and time.

Things Change but Memories Linger:

One of the hallmarks of the old neighborhood for me is the corner store turned restaurant at Western and Winnemac. It’s an Italian restaurant now, and it was a Thai restaurant a couple of decades ago. More importantly, it was once my grandfather’s corner grocery store. It was also the place my parents met as teenagers. Without this structure, I’m not here.

I only have a memory of visiting the store once before my grandfather sold it, but for some reason, the sights, sounds, and smells of that visit remain distinct all these years later. Not too long ago, my wife and I had dinner there and sat where I recall the front counter and cash register resided.I remember telling my wife I wish I had a superpower that would allow me to slice time open and peek back sixty or so years ago at the girl stocking shelves and the boy loading up his car with deliveries for the neighborhood. And along with the view of my eventual parents, I would love to see my grandfather. He’s been gone since 1976, yet his smiling face and kind heart live on in my memory banks.

Ripples that Prove We Were Here:

Much to my pleasant surprise, it turns out that even the passage of half-a-century since he sold the store hasn’t wholly diminished the ripples of my grandfather’s existence.

I decided to post a picture of the store turned restaurant and tell the story to the neighborhood group and thought that would be the end of it.

Suddenly, people jumped on the thread and started describing their memories of the store and the surrounding area. It turns out, corner stores were once integral parts of neighborhoods and the locations where parents shopped and sent their kids to pick up milk, bread, and yes, cigarettes.

Much to my surprise, several people remembered without my prompting, “Bill,” the kindly store owner. They described running to the store to pick up milk or buy baseball cards or buy penny candy when there was such a thing, and always being met by a man with a smile. Another remembered the smell of fresh produce in the store in an era when fresh fruit and vegetables couldn’t be taken for granted. One said, “Your grandfather was a nice man.”

Your Actions Today are Someone’s Backstories Tomorrow:

So, this is a management and leadership blog, and I just took you on a personal journey. What’s the point?

It’s a reminder of the reality of how our actions in the present impact people over time.

Consider just a few scenarios:

  • Your willingness to go the extra mile for a struggling team member
  • Your support of someone when no one else would give them a chance
  • Your extra effort to teach and coach and support your team member with their career aspirations

I guarantee these actions will ripple positively through the lives of the individuals you help, and likely the lives of the people they help because of you.

All of your actions, good and bad, create waves that reduce to ripples over time. Make sure they are positive.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

The era of the corner store as an integral part of our communities is long gone. Yet, like the corner shopkeeper of years gone by, all of us have opportunities to make waves that ultimately spread far and wide, and sometimes for decades. I’m thrilled that there are more than a handful of people left on the planet who remember my grandfather. I’m even more pleased that his ripples carry with them the warmth and kindness of a man doing good work in his community. Make sure people remember the good you did when they encountered you. Even a smile ripples through time for longer than you can imagine.

Art's Signature