Life is full of surprises. Occasionally, these unexpected occurrences serve as a reminder of our lives’ blessings. I experienced such an occurrence last week.
I spoke at an event where my aunt happened to be in the audience. When I finished, she handed me a large plastic bag containing an old wooden toolbox.
I wasn’t initially sure what to make of her gesture. The toolbox resembled the sort of relic you might see hanging on a wall at Cracker Barrel. I struggled to make a connection or see the toolbox’s relevance, until my aunt informed me that it had belonged to my late grandfather—a hero to me, her, and many others.
My grandfather was a fascinating man. A lifelong educator, he touched many lives. He began his career teaching in a Little House on the Prairie-esque one-room schoolhouse where he taught every student, grades one through twelve.
He would rise early, walk several miles to work, chop wood for the school’s furnace, prepare the students’ lunches, teach lessons, and then walk his students back home at the end of the day. He was an all-in-one teacher, counselor, administrator, food service provider, and transportation coordinator.
My grandfather would go on to retire several decades later as the acting superintendent for the county in which he began his teaching career. Along the way, he raised a family, lost a wife to illness, became a single-parent, and miraculously managed to build his own house—with his own hands, in a pre-power tool era.
The toolbox my aunt gave me was ever present on his life’s journey, as evidenced by its many nicks, paint splashes, and weathered appearance.
As I stared at the nearly 100-year-old toolbox, thinking about the profoundness of my aunt’s gift, she instructed me to look inside. But when I opened the lid, the toolbox appeared empty.
“It’s empty,” I said.
“Oh, to the contrary,” she said. “It’s very full.”
Confused, I replied, “But I don’t see anything in it.”
“That’s because it’s filled with invisible tools,” she said.
My aunt explained that the toolbox was a symbolic reminder of all the tools my grandfather had provided us through his example—wisdom, kindness, honor, perseverance, diligence, work ethic, etc. Not being able to readily see those tools didn’t diminish their usefulness, nor their value.
Many of the invisible tools that filled my grandfather’s toolbox are the same ones wielded by good teammates. And like my grandfather, good teammates leave these tools in the hearts and souls of those they encounter.
Legacies are cemented through our example and the invisible tools we leave behind for others. I don’t know of any group who leaves a more cherished legacy than good teammates.
My aunt’s thoughtful gift and its accompanying metaphorical message brought tears to my eyes. It was a good teammate move of epic proportions that made me think about my own legacy. I hope it compels you to do the same.
What invisible tools will be in the toolbox you leave behind?
As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.