Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Inspiration: a Present from a Dead Man

He brought a toy catalogue home from work in mid-October. The parents had a couple weeks to choose a toy that would be given at the employee Christmas party. 

"Commercialisim! Buying more junk! Give me the 20 euros and I'll..." he ranted.

"It's nice the company does something though..." she countered.

"It's the one nice thing - no bonus, just a stupid Santa Claus and some stupid plastic toys. It feels like a ploy to make Monsieur M look good."

Monsieur M had built this company out of his kitchen into a success, doing business all over the world. He had kept it local, providing jobs for in a department that didn't have a lot of industry, making a proud "Made in France" label. Local businesses gave discounts to employees. Monsieur M's brother owns a number of affordable houses and apartments for rent in town, many of which are occupied by employees. If you saw a BMW in town, it belongs to Monsieur M or a family member. Essentially, this was his town.

Sure,there was a downside. Employees had incredibly low salaries, considering their education/experience. Employees were not allowed to have personal items on their desks; they were in Monsieur M's factory and it was Monsieur M's desk. Working in health, safety and quality, he saw just how far the management was willing to go, just how much they were willing to spend. His smoke evcuation ducts coast too much; end of project. The sign warning not to use the saw for other purposes should be made smaller so the area wouldn't look cluttered. An infirmary would cost too much, as would a cot and such to be equipped for a sick/injured employee. A pillow and camping mat would be more than sufficient; could he pick them up on his personal time? But it was a stable job, the house was new and clean, the village well-situated, the river and forested countryside, the little stores and friendly people making for a good family life. They were grateful to be in Monsieur M's little French village and company.

However, Monsieur M was sick. Fifty-nine years of hard work, hard drinking and hard smoking, everyone said. The cancer had come back, the chemotherapy wasn't working, he was hospitalized the week before Christmas.

The little family left to spend Christmas with family, wondering if Monsieur M would be alive when they returned and what and how that would change things. The day before Christmas Eve, they found out there would indeed be a Christmas bonus; not extravagant, but a big boost for him to see his work was appreciate and a nice little padding to their checking account.

Three days after Christmas, they returned and the little one opened his present from the company. The crane and bobcat, backhoe and cement truck were amazing. Other new toys were pushed away as these became the favorites.

The next day, the father returned to work. The news on everyone's lips; Monsieur M had died, the day after Christmas.

The mother picked up the toys, thinking it was rather odd that her child had received a present from a man already at the morgue. She knew it technically came from some board of employees and it was only a tradition Monsieur M had set in place years ago, but with his pervasive presence at the company, it still felt like it came from him. Now there was no expressing gratitude to him, and he would have no chance to do things differently. She wished he could have died knowing the simple joy he brought to a two year-old boy, to a small single-income family. She wondered if he had thought back over his life and his work and how he had managed them both. Now his legacy was already fixed. For better or worse this was what Monsieur M left behind.

9 comments:

  1. Love your real life tale. Giving that comes from a good heart is its own reward. Thanks for your great comment on my blog, Roland -- The ghost of Samuel Clemens sends a wink your way, too. LOL!

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  2. Quite an emotionally packed story with so few words. Nice.

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  3. What a lovely story. Very emotional, in a good way.

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  4. I like how the characters here have so much dimension--no one is bad, and there are so many layers of feeling. Thanks...

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  5. That's actually so sad, but it's a good reminder that we should be more responsible for how we live our life.

    :-)

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  6. Marvelous reminder of the spirit of giving and how often we forget that.

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  7. @Roland D. Yeomans
    Life is as real as it gets! As for Mr. Clemens, I'm planning a trip to Hannibal in April! Checking out theaters and other points of interest. Should be interesting!

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  8. Thanks for reading and sharing! I appreciate the input.

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  9. An interesting post, it does make me reflect on the way we organise our lives.

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