Stuff My Grandfather Taught Me
My Grandfather was the smartest man I have ever known. I’m relatively sure that you feel the same about someone special in your life. To me, there was no one better.
My Grandfather, Abraham, was born in Russia in 1903. As a child, he had thrown a rock at a Czar’s solider, while playing. The soldier chased him into a hay stack, and used a pitchfork to try to find him. When my Great-grandparents had learned of this, they sent my grandfather to America to live with cousins.
(Ok, that wasn’t so smart… but I’m getting there).
When Abraham was a teenager, he took a job in a local pharmacy, as a stock boy. Though our family didn’t have the money to send him to college, the Pharmacist he worked for loaned him enough to pay tuition. He worked his rear end off, making the grade. He graduated from Brooklyn College of Pharmacy, Suma Cum Laude. There’s a certain pride that one should have in being top of their graduating class. He may have been proud of himself, but he never talked about it. In fact, no one in the family knew that he was as accomplished as he was until much later in life. Talk about modesty.
My Grandfather ended up buying that same pharmacy store, which had given him his start. It wasn’t exactly located in the nicest part of New York City, and his customers weren’t the rich or famous. This store catered to average, working folks. In fact, many of them were immigrants. He was forced to learn Italian and Spanish, as it was necessary in order to communicate with people.
(His language count is now at 5: English, Russian, Yiddish, Italian and Spanish – Not shabby!)
Back in those days, a Pharmacist was just as good as a doctor. So, when the doctor couldn’t see you, you went to the Pharmacist and hoped that they had a solution for whatever was ailing you. In addition, the Pharmacist wasn’t just a pill dispenser. They actually mixed and compounded the medications. They were alchemists.
In the 1930’s we were hit with the Great Depression. I know I refer to it as if it were a plague, but it was an awful period in our history. So many had gone without basic needs, many had died from malnutrition, some even committed suicide.
Every day during the Great Depression, my Grandfather would get out of bed, get dressed, and open that Pharmacy. It didn’t matter if he was doing business or not. He needed to keep that store open. When asked why, he replied that he felt compelled to do so for the sake of his customers, should they need anything. The other reason was that he had poured himself into that Pharmacy. It’s what he loved and what he was passionate about. Keeping the store open, even during one of the hairiest times in U.S. history, was partially self-serving. Nonetheless it was out of passion for his craft and love for the people he served.
My Grandparents weathered the storm, and kept that store open for many years. Eventually, they sold the store to the stock boy turned Pharmacist, Nicky. Nicky was like family to us. After all, he grew up in that pharmacy. He was a Brother to my Mother, another son to my Grandfather, and someone that we could all count on when in need.
Nicky continued the work my Grandfather began years earlier. He served the local people with kindness, compassion, empathy, loyalty and love…just like my Poppy.
I admit, it’s difficult to recount this story without tearing up. After all, it was my Grandfather who told it to me.
My Grandfather left me with many parting gifts. Though he passed away before I went off to college, he made sure that my parents had the means to send me to college without a need for loans or other debt. In addition he left behind a few lessons:
- Hard work pays off
- Above all else, be kind and compassionate
- Love with all your heart
There was never a secret to his success. It was all wrapped into the lessons he left behind.
There are always times when I feel that I have missed the mark, or that I have fallen short by my Grandfather’s standards. I suppose he would have offered forgiveness as a fourth lesson.
Ok, let’s wrap this up before I cry all over my keyboard.
Take these lessons from my Grandfather, and apply them to your daily life and your business. They are invaluable and will carry you far. Remember, when you miss the mark, as I have from time to time, don’t forget lesson number four: forgiveness.