My friend of 45 + years, Jeff Lestz, has a feature article in the London Business Journal entitled, ‘The Journey of Jeff Lestz From Homeless Orphan To Millionaire CEO of Genistar.’
I met Jeff in 1971 when he was living in a hippie commune that was off the Royalton Blacktop near Elkville, Illinois.
I was attending a little church in Elkville that was welcoming to the hippie community and had recently seen an influx of 40 or more hippies, mostly from the Chicago area.
Jeff, who is Jewish, as many of the hippies were, came from Chicago, where he had been homeless and and orphan and institutionalized for a time.
Jeff, had lost both his father and mother , tragically, and had not known…for some time…anyone that loved or cared for him.
As we became good friends, I noted that he had a sweet spirit and a great desire to serve his fellow man.
Jeff spent time in my home…when he and I were still in high school and he enjoyed my mom’s colloquial sayings.
I spent time in his foster home with his foster father Michael.
I remember when he began dating his wife, of over 40 years, Margo.
Margo, is one of the most lovely and sweet people that I have ever met.
I recall when Jeff began to sell insurance for Metropolitan Insurance Company.
He tired to get me a job there…but they did not like my attire.
I have witnessed Jeff Lestz help countless thousands of people to achieve financial freedom.
You may recall that the Blues Brothers said, ‘ That they were on a mission from God?’
Jeff, truly is on a mission from God!
A little over a year ago, in Leeds, England, I was privileged to visit with a group of prospective sales associates…for Genistar…Jeff’s company.
There were numerous ethnicities represented in the eager audience.
Before the meeting began, Jeff spoke with each person…individually. His brilliant smile and open and inclusive manner was engaging.
Jeff has the unique gift of projecting to those that he is speaking with…that they can achieve the same success that he has…if they are willing to perform the hard work that is necessary to do so.
The visit was exciting…what Jeff said to the audience was inspiring…it was a a Horatio Algier Moment!
When I stayed at the Hippie Commune….in Elkville…in 1972…Jeff and his foster father Michael showed me where to shower…and it was a makeshift shower in a corn field…that was gravity fed from a wash tub that was on top of the structure…and there was no curtain.
They assured me that there was no problem…as long as the corn had not been harvested.
To, today, where Jeff is an international speaker on christian financial freedom and christian principles of money management.
My life long friend..Jell Lestz…who Mary Jane and I have visited numerous times in Europe…and hope to again…soon!
A Brooks Tale
Pauly and Danny lived down the street.
Danny was my age and Pauly was two years younger. Pauly was one of those kids that was always in a good humor.
Pauly laughed at everything that I, or anyone else said, and, as a rule, I laughed along with him.
We were playing cowboys and Pauly wanted to play with my toy gun.
I told him to not to touch my gun or I would have to hit him with it.
Pauly laughed…as usual.
The game went on, in the highest of spirits, until Pauly…touched my toy gun.
I responded by hitting him on his head with the butt of the purloined instrument.
Pauly stopped laughing.
A bump arose on his poor little head…the size of an egg.
Pauly, announced, through tears, that he was going home.
I told him to be certain to tell no one of our disagreement.
He said that he would not tell.
Later that afternoon my Mom asked me why that I had hit Pauly with my toy pistol? I told her that he had disobeyed my request to not touch the gun…and that he had laughed.
Mom responded that Pauly laughed all of the time.
I replied, ‘ I know.’
As I was sleeping…the night of the touched gun incident…I heard a voice say that, ‘I was as mean as the devil.’
The voice was clear and concise…and my conscience hurt.
Pauly’s Mom accompanied him to my house…the next day…and I apologized and he accepted.
I have a dim memory of thinking about my house in Chicago, so many year ago, and it reminding me of the television sitcom, of the time, Leave it to Beaver, and pondering that my mom looked somewhat like June Cleaver and that my friends reminded me of, Lumpy and Wally and the Beave.
My friend, who lived at the opposite end of the street, Steve, had marionettes, and I was intrigued by them. Steve was older than I and his sister was older than him.
I had a crush, on Susie, Steve’s sister.
Steve, could make his numerous marionettes do anything. It seemed to me, that he could bring them to life. He seemed to have countless hours to devote to my puppet pleasure.
Steve and Susie’s mother was, Ivy, and she was a small woman who smoked cigarettes…one after the other.
Ivy was a tough little woman and she was my mom’s best friend.
Ivy cursed and drank and said just what she thought…and she was fabulously interesting.
Ivy’s husband, and Steve and Susie’s father, was named Bob.
Bob was a mechanic and quiet…almost mute. He smoked, as well, incessantly.
Living next door to us, in Sauk Village, a Chicago suburb, was Helen and her husband…who called me Doc.
Helens’s husband was named George and he had a perpetual sore back. Periodically, when we were all sitting in the adjoining back yards of our close houses, I administered a back rub to George. He raved at my chiropractic skills.
Later, when we had moved to Eldorado, Illinois…Helen wrote my mom that she, soon, was going to send me a new bicycle.
I am still waiting on the new bike.
A big car parked in front of my house…one day.
I was told that I must stay outside while a woman and my mom talked, adult matters, in the house.
It was hot and I noticed the the car had several girls in it.
I asked them if they would like for me to get them a glass of water…as I knew that they must be as hot as I was.
One of the young women in the car, remembers our first meeting, as she is the mother of two of my brothers and two of my sisters.
Dad, dressed in a motorcycle hat and a leather, motorcycle jacket.
He rode a Harley Davidson and he carried a gun…which was illegal at the time.
He was a mechanic and he worked on Semi Trucks.
When he came home, in the evening, he placed me on his shoulder and it seemed that I was the most important person in the world.
Mom was sad…much of the time…it seemed with my best efforts…I could not cheer her up.
We rode the Harley on a significant trip and I remember riding in the middle…between mom and dad.
We stopped at a restaurant that also sold books.
I took a book back to the table that we were eating at…and said that I was going to read it.
Mom laughed and told me that I must take the book back where I had found it as we were not at a library but rather the book that I had was for sale.
We vacationed in Eldorado…which seemed exotic to me.
Grandma Askew lived in a little house with a big front porch and a mean dog named Nugett.
Grandma and her sisters, Wanda and Vema and Guelda…were all Pentecostal.
I found out that mom had also been Pentecostal…before Chicago.
The Richardson’s were Grandma Askew’s next door neighbors. Debbie was my good friend…when we visited Grandma.
Also, I visited with my cousins, Brenda and Billy.
Billy showed me his Monster Magazines and Brenda was so nice to me…and pretty.
I slept on the living room couch…at Grandma’s and Nugett…slept in the chair that was next to the couch. In the middle of the night he would growl…and I did not bother him.
Grandma Askew’s family called my dad, Junior.
I thought that was so strange.
We usually attended a church service, when we were visiting in Eldorado, and the sermons were so long. I fell asleep…as did others.
I heard Jack Archer sing. He had a beautiful tenor voice.
Later Jack…became my pastor…for several years.
Life seemed very different in Eldorado…than Chicago…I did not realize the changes that were in store for…Beaver and June Cleaver.
We had wonderful Christmas’s in Chicago.
There was a great Christmas Tree and Laughing Santa and Christmas cookies and many gifts.
Christmas became special to me…during this time.
When we moved to Eldorado, not long before my mom and dad’s divorce, Santa visited our house.
I could not believe my good fortune!
I love Autumn.
I am setting on my screened in porch and it is 51 degrees but it feels like 48 degrees with a wind of 9 mph.
Now, I realize that many of you are hearty and enjoy the cold…I was once in your ranks…until I got old.
Yet, I throughly enjoy writing these blogs on the porch.
I gaze out at our little pond…and watch the fish jump and the beaver faithfully, and in a workmanlike manner, perform his Dam building, and see the Blue Heron retrieve fish in its great beak… and feel inspired!
Between my, almost daily, sojourns to the lovely campus of Southern Illinois University and my communion with nature…in my back yard…I seem to never be out of subjects to write about.
Some of them, I realize are similar, but with subtle variations.
What a gift life is!
The daily enjoyment and appreciation of this marvelous gift is something to be savored and enjoyed as retrospectively and slowly as possible.
Remember, no one can cause your to do anything that you do not want to do. You are given one life…and it is yours to manage as you see fit.
Please, do not submit your free will to a religious or political leader…but rather…think for your self.
Of course, all of us must follow the laws of our land and the rules of the road and the regulations that govern our employment.
But, as far as your thinking and your direction and your motivation…let that be the fruits of critical thinking and analysis.
Do not sub-contract your ideas and your life direction to another…God gave you a brain to use…so use it!
‘The guardian angel is an angel that is assigned to protect and guide a particular person, group, kingdom, or country. Belief in guardian angels can be traced throughout all antiquity. The concept of tutelary angels and their hierarchy was extensively developed in Christianity in the 5th century by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.’
‘The theology of angels and tutelary spirits has undergone many refinements since the 5th century. Belief in both the East and the West is that guardian angels serve to protect the person God assigned to them, and present prayer to God on that person’s behalf.’ Wikipedia
The concept of Guardian Angels is not only well represented in Christian thought, but also in Judaism and Islam.
‘For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.’ Psalm 91:11 KJV
‘He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be they shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flies by day.’ Psalm 91:4-5 KJV
I watched a great Halloween movie, the other night on Netflix, called A Dark Song. Toward the conclusion of the movie there was an excellent depiction of a massive Guardian Angel…that literally filled the room depicted in the film.
Have you ever experienced an extremely difficult time…and the difficulty or worry or terror…was resolved to your satisfaction…and peace?
Have you felt a calm assurance that God was in control of your life and including your most dire problems and concerns…including health and relationship and work and financial and spiritual?
I have always believed that I have a Guardian Angel.
I have difficulty in making the connection that God is watching me personally…but the concept of a Guardian Angel…makes perfect sense to me.
When I am most worried about family or health or the terrors of the world surrounding me…and I have temporarily forgotten God’s care for me in the past…I suddenly have the distinct impression…that God has always taken care of me.
I think that we often travel through this world and trust our hard work and dogged determination has yielded great gains for us.
We believe that our cunning and conservative ideals and fiscal prudence has brought us financial security and comfort and a nice life style…that we deserve… due to our pulling ourselves up by our boot straps and soldiering on.
When in reality…the kindness of Heaven…and the protection of a loving God…has assisted us…more than we will ever know…in this life.
Note: Photos of Guardian Angels are from Google.
I had a lovely walk around Campus today…including a tour around Campus Lake.
When, I passed the Log in the Lake…and could not help but notice the Cooperation being enjoyed by the turtles and the geese that were occupying the shared space.
I read an engaging and enlightening essay by Maria Shriver, this morning. In it she said the following: ‘Success. I’ve made big misjudgments here. I used to think that if I were the anchor of a network show that I would feel successful. Same with publishing a best-selling book. I was wrong. Success, I’ve learned, is an inside job. I didn’t grow up with that message, but I now know it to be true. The people who I now think are the most successful are the ones who have beautiful loving families. They are the ones who are loved and are loved. Who toil quietly and patiently on the front lines of life. Who recognize that a modest life is just as meaningful as one lived in the spotlight.’
I can remember thinking, early in my life, that I must endeavor to become someone of noteworthy accomplishments and high position, or station, in life…for my life to have true meaning.
However, it has been my experience that the greatest satisfaction in life comes in the quiet times…when no one is watching…and no one is taking notes.
Our life’s journey presents many and varied challenges. Hidden among these challenges are tests or pop quizzes…if you will…that examine our ideas and our compass as the direction that we are traveling.
I stood up for my friend and former Chancellor, when she was terminated, and I feared for my job security…because it was threatened.
A campus leader told me that, I was in line for a promotion…and the subtext of the pronouncement was…to back off supporting Jo Ann.
I refused to turn my back on my friend…and I did not get the promotion.
I often told my supervisors and others…that I have to be able to look at the face that stares back at me in the mirror each morning…and…’to thy own self be true.’
I had a friend and fellow churchman, Dean B., who resigned a good position with a company, many years ago, rather than do something that they had asked him to do which he felt was unethical.
I walked out of a meeting, with men who were higher than me in rank and authority, when they began to speak disparagingly about individuals in my department.
They said that I had misunderstood them…I told them that I wish that I had.
Our lives are similar to a fine handcrafted clock. There is a balance that is required…for them to work properly.
When a leader says demeaning and derogatory statements about; women and minorities and the disabled and media and we shut our eyes and say…yes but we are going to get tax cuts?
When the truth is laughed at in the streets…and lies are embraced…what is the conclusion of the matter?
Often, I have been told to not rock the boat…just do my job…go along to get along…
I attempted to followed this advice when it affected no one but me…but when others are affected…it is time to open you mouth.
I have worked with some who benefited greatly by saying just what their boss or the person in power…wanted to hear. Is that the real purpose of life?
Cooperation is essential to all facets of life. Understanding others who are unlike us and working with them and appreciating them…is the oil that makes the clock of life work and run efficiently.
Cooperation is not the tamping down of your ethics and understanding of right and wrong…the submersion of your humanity…in order to obtain some additional money or fame or fortune or notoriety and acclaim.
When I first became a supervisor, at SIU, in 1979, I quickly noticed that many of the members of my crew were not only older than me…but also brought with them a wealth of life and professional experiences.
I had a gentleman, Joe S., who had been the Chief Credit Officer for Martin Oil Company for 25 years.
Another crew member, Ken H., had been a salesman for Bluebell Lunch Meat, in DuQuoin, Illinois for 30 years.
I was 21 years old. I had student staff…that were older than me.
Another member of my housekeeping staff was, Rufus H., who was a minister. Rufus, expounded to me…the first night that I met him…that he would not tolerate prejudice or bigotry…and that he would not ‘set at the back of the bus…as Rosa Parks had already paid the price!’
When Rufus completed his impassioned statement…I told him that not only was I not prejudice…but that it was my honor to have him as a member of the crew and that I took great pride in producing Crew Supervisors from my staff.
Rufus smiled and said that he had heard that about me and that he was glad to be working with me.
When I became Superintendent of Building Services, the last 13 years of my carer at SIU, I was humbled at the support that was afforded me by almost the entire staff of 350 people.
The Dean of CASA, Elaine Vitello, telephoned me a couple of days into my tenure and told me that she had never seen her custodial staff so happy and full of life and that they could not be confined in their joy that I had been named Superintendent.
Humbled is not an adequate word to describe how I felt…I was not worthy of these fine professionals support…but I was going to try to live up to their expectations…with God’s help.
Throughout my career…there was one certainty…and that was the supreme honor that I had in being allowed to manage such an excellent and diverse group of professionals.
We all have feelings.
We all can be hurt.
We all respond to genuine kindness.
We all recoil at vindictiveness and meanness and vitriol that is focused at us…from a supervisor or manager or leader that, somehow, feels that by virtue of their title…they have become smarter or wiser or more proficient than the excellent staff that they have been blessed with.
I have had staff tell me that they were thinking of committing suicide.
I have witnessed men leave a meeting with me…weeping…only to return to tell me that the stress that they were under at home…was virtually unbearable.
Often colleagues are battling chronic illness…both physical and mental…and they are presenting themselves in a professional and workmanlike manner…only to be disparaged and discouraged and talked down to.
There is an axiom that I lived by for my entire career.
Praise a person in public…from the mountain top…for all to witness and hear.
Constructively criticize a person…only in private…begin with a positive affirmation of something that they do extremely well…and end the meeting with another positive comment regarding their strong work related qualities.
As my friend and colleague, Jody, told my wife several years ago…Jay can ‘chew you out…and you do not even realize it until well after you have left the meeting with him.’
When you are employed…much of your waking hours are spent in dedication to your job.
It is vital that supervisor and managers and administrators are trained in the proper manner in which to treat the staff’s that they are responsible for.
A good leader…can make your life wonderful…and a bad leader can make your life…Hell.
It is never about the supervisor or the administrator or the leader…it is about the human and professional that is subject to to the life changing edicts of either a good manager or leader or administrator or a bad one.
I was speaking with a friend, a few days ago, about leadership.
I was thinking about; leaders, and good administrators and good managers…the other day…as I often do.
I was a manager for over twenty-five years.
It was easy to gravitate toward people who shook their heads in agreement with everything that came out of my mouth.
It is challenging to listen to constructive criticism or ideas that differ from your own.
I discovered early in my career…that often those who smiled and heartily agreed with me…were undercutting me when I was not present.
And, those who had differing ideas from mine…and constructive criticism…often had my best interest at heart.
As the Superintendent of Building Services…I had an open door policy. Many managers say that they have this policy…I have seen few that implemented it.
Whether…members of my immediate staff or crew supervisors or Building Service Workers or student custodial staff…all members of the organization and all customers that we served…were equally important to me.
My Motto was that if you put people first…excellent work will follow.
To this day… when I hear of a member of my former staff…being mistreated…it enrages me!
The former motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, said, ‘I really do not care how much you know…until I know how much you care…about me.’
To value another person’s worth…not only as a human being…but as a professional…is compelling.
When I was a member of the University Community, those leaders that projected to me…their admiration and respect and value of my accomplishments…I worked for countless hours…for free!
Southern Illinois University has a rich and elite history.
The reasons for SIU’s enrollment decline are numerous.
Some University Leaders were dismissed, without cause, when they were just beginning to turn the Great Ship around.
There was, for years, a lack of the proper attention paid toward the high school students in Southern Illinois…for recruiting.
Former Chancellor, Don Beggs, told me, when he became Chancellor…that he was shocked to find that there was little to no budget for advertising for the University.
During Chancellor Beggs time…we had over twenty-two thousand students.
The Sate of Illinois…abdicated it’s fiscal responsibility to us…for years.
Yet, there is a uniqueness and an inherent quality of excellence in the DNA of SIU…that must be treasured and protected…at all costs!
If a Leader cares about you…you will feel it in ‘your bones.’
Platitudes and gratuitous statements fall on deaf ears…when they are not backed by the demonstrated…time…and listening….and concern…and listening…that it takes to truly lead a diverse people…who only seek…someone to value them.
I just left a wonderful lunch with my friend, Jim, and a discussion of a project that he and I are going to partner on.
It was fun to discuss a writing project…and the ideas are already percolating.
Besides that, Jim bought my lunch in celebration of my 60th birthday.
What is not to like?
I was pleased to hear of the many innovations that have occurred in the Housekeeping industry since my retirement…almost seven years ago.
Indeed, having spent my career in the Custodial industry…I am excited to learn of the many innovative tools that have been created, in the last five years, that assist in enabling custodial professionals to excel.
I dedicated my professional life to illustrating that the Building Services Staff at Southern Illinois University exemplified the elite of Housekeeping professionals, not only in the state of Illinois…but throughout the country.
Today, listening to Jim’s, cutting edge program of custodial maintenance and the flexibility that it affords, was an encouragement to me…for the future of my beloved Building Service’s Staff.
When a Cleaning Organization buys into…what is considered the best procedures that are currently on the market…they have gone a long way to securing their continued viability.
In the world of ever increasing diminished resources…it is vital to maximize the Housekeeping Technicians that you have.
Working smarter…rather than harder…is the key to continued Housekeeping success and job security.
For many years wherever you saw me…you saw my buddy, Steve.
We became friends over 45 years ago.
Both of us had struck out on our own and we attended the same little church in Elkville, Illinois.
Our lives gave new meaning to what it meant to be poor.
One day…one of us said to the other, ‘Wouldn’t some biscuits and gravy be delicious’…the other agreed and we proceeded to the Maid-Rite Cafe in DuQuoin, Illinois.
When we sat down and ordered coffee…I said to Steve…’you are springing for this aren’t you?’
Steve replied, ‘I thought that you were paying…as I am broke.’
I responded, ‘I do not have a dime on me…and we had better leave now or we are going to be washing dishes!’
We hurriedly left…before the coffee arrived.
I was hired at SIU on October 10, 1978…and Steve was hired nine months later.
For many years…people would call my Steve and call Steve…Jay.
Mary Jane and I married on March 24, 1978.
Steve and Faye were married less than a year later.
Faye and Mary Jane were good friends.
Steve and Faye and Mary Jane and I took many vacations together.
We enjoyed going to Gatlinburg, Tennessee together during the Christmas Season…and did so several times.
For years, when we did not go to Gatlinburg…we visited our friends in Kingsport, Tennessee.
I had a tradition of purchasing a Case knife at a Flea Market in Kingsport each Christmas Season.
We had another tradition of attending movies together…especially during the holidays.
I vividly remember attending Godfather III…and Faye giving me one of her headache pills for my splitting headache. My headache vanished,,,miraculously…and I happily recall the event…now….although it was over thirty years ago.
Faye is such a kind and loving person…I think of her as a sister and Steve as my brother.
Steve and I worked around our little church…in all capacities.
I remember he and I shoveling snow on Thanksgiving Day.
We drove to Birmingham, Alabama…to assist in moving Faye’s sweet mother back to Illinois…to live with them.
We used to go to Steve and Faye’s for New Year’s and they came to our house near Christmas.
We played board games and laughed and talked about our shared past…and our futures.
Steve and I share October 24th as our birthday…and…guess who is older?
And, so, the day of reckoning approaches.
The day when I become eligible for some senior discounts.
The day when I reflect on what I have done…and contemplate…what, new, can I do?
Tuesday, I turn 60.
I have heard said that age is just a number. Also, that you are only as old as you feel. And, even, that 60 is the new 40.
If 60 is the new 40 does that mean the 70 is the new 50…and 80, if you make it, is the new 60?
We live in a country that seems obsessed by youth and how to retain it through life.
Mary Jane and I have often commented that the stores in our mall, and in most malls, cater to the under 30 crowd. We have often wondered what the marketing reasoning for this is..as the purchasing power of adults usually increases with age.
I am thrilled to have made it this far and deeply appreciative of what has happened to this point.
Life is a bit like a roller coaster…with euphoric moments…and sick to your stomach moments…and the consistency of the click-clack of the tracks as you ride from birth to death.
Moments…are what have stuck with me.
Christmas with Mom and Dad…in Chicago…with Laughing Santa…and a scent of a Christmas candy…that I have searched for…until now.
Mary Jane grabbing my hand…after we were pronounced man and wife…and I suddenly realized…that my life had changed.
Holding Aaron…not long after he was born…with his little blue cap…and feeding him with a bottle.
The sound of Jonathon…jumping out of his crib…and running through the house…laughing.
Getting hired at SIU…and thinking…now I can build a life.
Going to the movies with our dear friends, Steve and Faye, and one in particular…Godfather III.
Visiting Peter and Jo Ann during the Christmas Season…and their beautiful Christmas Tree…and Irish Coffee.
Standing at my retirement party…and thinking….where did 32 years go?
Meeting my brother, Brock and my sister in law Marcy and my niece Jaime and my nephew Brock and spending time with them in Gatlinburg.
Re-connecting with our life long friends, Jeff and Margo, in Europe.
Traveling with my buddies, Ron and Ira Kaye.
Meeting my sister Billie.
Yesterday…in the courtyard of the Canyon Cafe at Plaza Frontenac…drinking a glass of Merlot with Mary Jane and Aaron and Jonathon…and the afternoon was beautiful…with a light breeze…and realizing what a blessing life is.
The future is as bright and warm as we have the imagination and courage to believe.
Age…should be celebrated!
Why hide from who you have become…by what your life experiences have created?
When I was 39 I was pleased that then Chancellor Beggs noted that I had more gray hair, in recent months, than he had noticed in the past. At that time I had been a member of the University Community for 20 years. I felt like that I had earned every white hair.
Now my hair is almost all gray…and my beard…that I like very much…although I have been told that it makes me look older.
I think that we humans identify with ‘Place.’ We become part of our geography…in a sense.
I know that I feel a fundamental need to visit the Campus of Southern Illinois University…often. Every step that I take…is home to me.
Life is a full experience and age is a vital part of the journey.
Age has taught me to be tolerant and accepting of all people. If I have learned anything…I have learned that the magnificent diversity of our planet and the kaleidoscope of colors and faiths and traditions…is what God created…and it is majestic in its’ inherent beauty.
I saw a video the other day…on Facebook. The video showed an old and dieing chimpanzee being greeted by an old, human friend, who at first the chimpanzee did not recognized. She had refused both water and food prior to her friend Jan van Hoof…who had known Mama for 44 years came to visit.
When Mama recognized Jan…she smiled the most captivating smile and she took some food and water.
We are all connected on this Earth.
‘From dust thou came…and to dust…thous shalt return.’