April 25, 1992


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Let’s face it: We don’t often think like writer John Bunyan, who said, “You have not lived today successfully unless you’ve done something for someone who can never repay you.” Yet if we want to live at the highest level, that’s what we must do.

One of my favorite examples of that kind of help occurred during the Winter Olympics in 1964. Back then, the greatest bobsledder of all time, Italy’s Eugenio Monti, was engaged in the two-man bobsled competition. The Italians made good time during their first run. So did the British team, with driver Tony Nash in charge. Following Monti’s second run, he was in first place. And it looked as if he and his teammate might win the gold medal as long as the Brits didn’t surpass them.

As the British team prepared for their second and final run, they made a demoralizing discovery. During the first run, a bolt had broken on their rear axle, and they didn’t have a replacement. They had no choice but to drop out. But Eugenio Monti, who was waiting at the bottom of the hill to see if his time would hold up, heard about what had happened to the British team. He removed a bolt from the rear axle of his own sled and sent it up the hill to his competitor. Nash’s team used the bolt, made their run, and won the gold medal. Monti and his teammate ultimately finished in third place.

There was no way that Nash could repay Monti. And there was no way Monti could benefit from giving Nash the bolt. Yet he did it anyway. The criticism against him in the Italian press was scathing. But he let everyone know that he wanted to win only if he truly was the best. “Tony Nash did not win because I gave him a bolt,” explained Nash. “Tony Nash won because he was the best driver.”

Doing something for someone who can never repay you is a good thing. It’s a way of “cleaning out your system,” if you will. We have all kinds of toxins in our system—I’m talking about the soul toxins, not the other kinds. One such toxin is the way we treat others and the way we expect others to repay our kindness and actions. That is called reciprocation.

Reciprocation is the return of a favor. Most of us treat our spouses, our friends, and our companies with a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” attitude. We lead with the question, “What’s in it for me?”

How much of your treatment toward others is really a selling job? You are doing something so that it can be registered and somehow make its way back to you when you need it the most.

That is certainly how most of us live. And then when someone comes along that helps others who can never repay you it is so fresh and pure.

The best index to a person’s character is (a) how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and (b) how he treats people who can’t fight back.– Abigail Van Buren

The Power of One person practicing the Golden Rule pushes us past this shallow way of thinking. We all like to be given to or served without an expectation of repayment. So we should in turn live the same way.

1. Are you a giving person? Name three ways you regularly give your time and resources:

2. If a person is measured not by what they have, but what they give, how do you measure up?

I keep it all——I keep a lot and give a little—–I give a lot and keep a little——I am a very generous giver

3. Why do we struggle with helping others?

4. What is the benefit of helping someone who cannot give anything in return?

5. Many people speak of the “joy” they find in serving and giving of themselves and their resources. Can you identify with this joy? Describe it.

You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them.–Malcolm Forbes

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