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Red Marbles and a Very Kind Leader: Powerful Personal Leadership Story

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Powerful personal leadership

Very Kind Leader – Powerful Personal Leadership Story

I love stories that demonstrate personal leadership. The influence of good men and women have shaped the character and hearts of millions. Many of these personal leaders have lived humble and relatively unknown lives.

It is difficult to measure the total impact we can have on others lives! Each of us has the power to be personal leaders in our own way.

I heard this beautiful, yet simple personal leadership story the other day and would like to share it.

The story is told of a man whom the store owner, Mr. Miller, was bagging some potatoes for. This man noticed a small boy who he described as “hungrily apprising a basket of freshly picked green peas.” He said he was, “delicate to the bone and feature, ragged but clean.”

The man was looking over some of the new fresh produce on his way out when he overheard the conversation between Mr. Miller and the ragged boy.

“Hello Barry, how are you today?” The hungry boy replied “H’lo Mr. Miller, Fine, thank ya. Jus’ admirin’ them peas… sure look good.”

Each time the little boy would come to the store the conversation would have a similar tone. He would ask him how he was doing and how his mom was. She was sick, and they just didn’t have much at home and this hungry young boys attention was always on the fresh produce.

Mr. Miller would always ask if Barry would like to take some home. Barry would reply “No, Sir. Got nuthin’ to pay for ’em with.”

And Mr. Miller would say, “Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?” Barry would say, “All I got’s my prize marble here.”

“Is that right? Let me see it.” Mr. Miller would take a careful look at it and compliment the boy on his prized marble. “Hmmmmm,” Mr Miller would say, “only thing is this one is blue, and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one at home?” The little boy would say “not exactly,” but he had one sort of like it.

Mr. Miller would then send the boy home with the marble and peas and asked him to bring the red marble back when he found it.

Mrs. Miller, the store owners wife came back to help the man looking at the produce with an ear turned towards the conversation of the store owner and this little boy. With a smile she said, “There are two other boys like him in our community. All three are very poor. Jim (Mr. Miller) just loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes, or whatever. When they come back with red marbles he decides he doesn’t like red marbles and sends them back with a bag of produce searching for another color.

Years later Mr. Miller had passed away. The man who had witnessed his kind acts happened to be in town the night of his viewing. The friends he was visiting wanted to attend and this man decided to join them.

As they arrived and waited in line, offering condolences to the family of this generous man, ahead of them in line were three finely dressed men. One was in an Army uniform and the other two in nice dark suites with white shirts. All were very professional looking.

The three young men approached Mrs. Miller, standing composed and smiling by her husband’s casket. Each of the young men hugged her and then kissed her on the cheek. They spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket. Her light blue misty eyes followed them one by one, as each young man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand in the casket. Each left the mortuary wiping his eyes in recognizable sorrow.

The man’s turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. He reminded her of the story she told him so long ago about her husband’s generous bargaining with the marbles. With her eyes glistening, she took the man’s hand and led him to the casket. “Those three young men who just left were the boys I told you about,” she said. They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim ‘traded’ them. Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size… they came to pay their debt.”

Mrs. Miller said: “We’ve never had a great deal of the wealth of this world, but right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho.”

With loving gentleness, the story is told, she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband.

Resting underneath were three exquisitely shined red marbles.

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“They are good, Barry. How’s your Ma?”

      “Fine. Gittin’ stronger alla’ time.”

      “Good. Anything I can help you with?”

      “No, Sir. Jus’ admirin’ them peas.”

      “Would you like to take some home?”

      “No, Sir. Got nuthin’ to pay for ’em with.”

      “Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?”

      “All I got’s my prize marble here.”

      “Is that right? Let me see it.”

      “Here ’tis. She’s a dandy.”

      “I can see that. Hmmmmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort  of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?”
“Not zackley … but almost.”

      “Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at that red marble.”

      “Sure will. Thanks Mr. Miller.”

Leave a Comment

  • August 1, 2012, 1:56 pm

    What a very touching story about Leadership.
    It’s not ALWAYS about the money or what you get in exchange for what you give…sometimes, it simply is just appropriate to help; to be able to find bliss by doing so is a reward in itself.
    Really worth sharing. Thank you.

  • Mike Rogers August 2, 2012, 4:07 pm

    Excellent points Baiju. Hopefully “IF” never becomes “I wish I had…”

  • Baiju. V Pandit August 2, 2012, 4:03 pm

    The fruits & the wealth of doing good are priceless & remain till eternity, w/Mr.Miller having the 3 Marbles clutched tightly in his hands at the time of his death, compared to the instant materialistic gratification. Imagine, what joy he would have felt & experienced if he had seen fruits of his sheer goodness if he was alive & had these boys come in same dresses to pay their respects & admiration for him. I m sure he would have thrown away millions for this if given an option between the two.
    Sure, the boy could hav stolen & left/ran away. Sure, Mr.Miller could hav asked the boy to leave the store, as he was simply a regular gazer in the store. Sure, Mrs.Miller could hav told her husband not to become a charity & save more for their retirement. It all leads to ‘IF’, ‘IF’, ‘IF’ with good people. And it is the great Leaders who throw away/eliminate the ‘IF’ and see the ground reality, the innocent Truth/being & act accordingly in the best interests of the parties involved.
    Best Regards,
    Baiju V.Pandit

  • Amrendra August 3, 2012, 7:41 am

    Thanks for a wonderful story. To me, Millers
    are epitomes of unconditional love. This is much more exalted than pity. And there is deep gratitude also. Wish i could ….

  • Mike Rogers August 4, 2012, 3:05 pm

    Your welcome Armrendra! I am glad you liked it. Unconditional love is a good way to say it : )

  • Mike Rogers August 6, 2012, 4:56 pm

    We really do have the power to influence and affect others lives every day. And we can do it in very personal and humble ways Aaron. It clearly defines the true leader in my mind as well.
    Sandra, I am happy you will be sharing this message with others. It’s the reason I blog : ) We really can make a difference!

  • Aaron Baker August 6, 2012, 4:54 pm

    How great a story! As Trainers, Educators, Teachers, Coaches, Leaders, and Mentors, we hold the lives of others in our hands everyday. We have the power to influence others as leaders and point them in the right direction. In some cases, the servant role as a leader is viewed as a weakness; however, I believe it defines the character of a true leader.

  • Sandra Reynolds August 6, 2012, 4:55 pm

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story with us. I will share it with all the delegates who attend my workshops. We need to spread the message of simple,but personal leadership – especially in these difficult times. Each one of CAN make a difference.

  • Olivette Kamara December 16, 2012, 7:20 am

    Yes, as leaders we must give a little time to stop, listen, observe and only then will we be able to see where there is a need. Mr. Miller stop, observe and was able to see the the hungry boy keenly looking and longing for a bite; and was able to make a way to supply that need. A great show of unconditional love and concer – we must pay attention to the insignificant things/people around us – then we might have make the difference

  • Janice Hudson January 16, 2013, 6:28 pm

    Thank you for sharing this story. I went to a funeral today. The man in the casket had provided a home for my family at one time. He stepped out of his comfort zone, going against family and friends advice to bless us. His generosity, love and kindness is a great example for all. May we never forget to pass along to the next generation the many gifts and lessons that we have received.


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