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The Good Samaritan

Debbe Kennedy Posted by Debbe Kennedy, author and founder, president, and CEO, Global Dialogue Center | Leadership Solutions Companies.

Debbe Kennedy is founder, president, and CEO of Leadership Solutions Companies and Global Dialogue Center,an award-winning enterprise since 1990, specializing in custom leadership, organizational, and virtual communications.

The Good Samaritan

Brenda Tobias

I dashed out of a parking garage, mindlessly rushing down the street, acknowledging no one, only to be abruptly halted by a red light. I stood impatiently, grinding my heels into the curb, ready to leap out in front of the crowd at the first sign of green . As the light changed, an unexpected slow motion took over. My shoes tried unsuccessfully to hold me back-the heels now solidly stuck in the crevice at the edge of the curb. My body instead took over, looming forward, lifting itself through the air, then falling with a thump onto the street. The point of impact was an excruciating, jolting crash of bones as I landed on the asphalt on both knees. Next, still in slow motion, out of nowhere, came a warm hand reaching out to me. I grasped it firmly, welcoming the care and strength from this person I had not yet seen. As I lifted my head up, my eyes met the eyes of the Good Samaritan . My anguish was clearly mirrored on his brown face. “Are you all right? Let me help you,” he said without words.

My life was suddenly interrupted as I was literally “brought to my knees,” stripped of my dignity, then lifted up and mentored by a man with no place to go. He was homeless. For that moment so was I. I had passed him many times, always much too busy to notice him-or was it just easier to look away? I never heard his voice; never wondered what he had to say or thought about what he needed. I never recognized our sameness. Amazingly, he had time for me when I showed up unannounced.

One seemingly unrelated event-a few chaotic moments in time-shocked me into a new level of understanding and thinking about what it means to make a difference. The nameless man caused me to start asking myself some deeper questions and now I ask you:

  • How many times have you rushed by the opportunity to learn from someone else, to broaden your perspective, to recognize a person’s contribution to you?
  • How many people have you unintentionally ignored in your work and life?
  • How many ideas, insights and talents have you overlooked because of your own limiting labels and biases?
  • How well do your own actions and behaviors set an example for others about making a difference?

Our organizations would be better places to work if they brought out the qualities of the Good Samaritan in all of us. These qualities ask more of us as individuals. They call us to cultivate a genuine interest in the well-being of others that goes a step beyond the organizational core values that are commonly, and sometimes casually, recited-trust, respect, teamwork, innovation, excellence, integrity, and customer service. A young manager brought this to life for me in an interview not long ago. It was clear from my own observations that he was routinely ridiculed and ignored by his seasoned peers and truly struggling to get his bearings in his new role. He had been “brought to his knees” plenty of times. He mentioned none of this to me. Instead, when questioned about what he thought would improve the organization most, he said, “What if you could come to work every day and know that everyone around you was interested in helping you be the best you could be. Wouldn’t that be a great place to work?”


  • Focus on the small things you do. Seemingly small unconscious behaviors, actions, and habits can work to exclude people. If you want people to feel valued, notice they exist-say hello for starters. Listen to them with genuine interest.
  • Invite others into the process. If you want people to feel included, bring them into the process of mainstream decisions and activities. Together we can do amazing things.
  • Set the example for respecting others. If you want people to feel respected, show it. Keep appointments. Return calls and emails. Give them your undivided attention when they speak. Talk with people when you don’t need something. Reach out to lift others up when you have the opportunity to make a difference.

Debbe Kennedy is president of Leadership Solutions Companies, and author of Action Dialogues (Berrett-Koehler, 2000) and the Diversity Breakthrough! Action Series (Berrett-Koehler, 2000). Learn more at www.debbekennedy.com.