In my senior year of college, I had to fly to Burlington, Virgina for a software engineer interview. The flight was from LA to Chicago and then to Burlington. On my leg to Chicago, I must have been bored out of my mind b/c I found myself striking up a conversation with a much older gentleman next to me. It turned out that he lived in Chicago and had kids who were married, doctors, lawyers, etc. It sounded like a great family life. Then he proceeded to tell me about his wife and his friends (some part of the Mafia). He would talk about going to funerals of his buddies and having authorities sitting outside the doors to see who attended. He made it clear that he chose to stay out of that world, but nonetheless had childhood friends who chose otherwise.
We talked the entire flight. I remembered how interesting his life sounded. So then we landed and after we got out of the terminal, I told him it was a pleasure speaking with you. We shook hands and I noticed he was slipping a dollar bill with a 5 on it to me. I said no no, I can’t take this. He said, take it. That was the end of it. When he finally walked away, I looked down at my hand and noticed it was a $50 dollar bill, not $5 dollar bill. I was in complete shock. Why would a complete stranger give me money? In any case, I decided to keep the $50 dollar bill like it was a good luck charm. ‘Til this day, I have not spent the $50.
Things that I learned from this experience: 1) You never know who you’re going to meet and what you’ll learn from their life experiences, inspiration, and 2) One day people are bound to give you something out of nowhere and you should not take it for granted, be appreciative. I know that this posting is not business-related per se, but I thought that I would share a life experience that has stuck with me. Maybe one day I’ll do the same to a young, up and comer – pay it forward.