A quick story.
Monday evening flight I sat beside an older black man with one of those giant rings. I’m embarrassed to admit that I immediately thought: “Must have been a football player or basketball player.”
I was killing myself with curiosity.
I couldn’t help myself.
And I rarely exchange more than pleasantries with a fellow flyer.
But, I couldn’t help myself (I’m bad that way).
Me: “Sir, I hope you don’t mind me noticing, you have a spectacular ring, and I’m wondering what it represents.”
Him: “I’m a McDonalds’ franchise holder, and I’m a long-term employee.”
Me (rather lamely and kind of upset that he wasn’t a star point-guard): “Oh that’s great, it’s quite spectacular.”
Him: “Oh, I’m very proud of it.”
Me: (standard coach question) “tell me more.”
Him: “Well, those 18 diamonds you see represent 18 black franchise holders who organized in 1995 to demand that McDonalds address some of the inequality in how the company was treating us vs. white owners.”
Me: (now listening with the ears of a rabbit). “Tell me about that inequality…”
Him: “You know the corporation was founded in 1955 but it was 1969 before it had it’s first black franchise holder. And we were treated differently, so our stores did not perform as well as those owned by white franchisees. So we got together in 1995 and demanded more and better support.”
Me: “And how did it work out?”
Him: “Well, it took seven years from 1995 to 2002 to bring our black owned stores to white-owned standards. But we did it and not only that, we have greatly expanded the number of black franchise holders.”
We had a longer conversation, where he disclosed that he grew up in poverty but went to college. He went to work for a large corporation but figured out in the ’80s that his career would likely hit a ceiling so he became determined to become self-employed. To cut a long story short, his determination to pursue owning a franchise has enabled him to lift his family out of poverty.
If you can suspend all of your judgments about McDonalds for a minute, the moral of the story is simple:
– I thought I was in the presence of a sports hero.
– I was actually in the presence of a real hero – someone who overcame all kinds of obstacles to make his way in life.
I keep learning that real heroes are those people who see limitation and crush it.