While working at my internship at DemandMedia, I met this man by the name of Bailey who worked in the lobby. He is an African-American male in his mid-forties and always wore a well-pressed grey suit and red tie–perfect for his job of greeting guests and assisting whenever he could. His nose carried a pair of circular glasses, which were slightly thick which made his eyes appear larger than they truly were. He also had a shaven head on top, with enough hair to keep him looking professional.
Whenever I entered work, Bailey would always greet me with a cordial, “Good morning sir,” never forgetting to call me sir. I could tell in his voice that his words were genuine, especially when directed toward me.
Over the course of the period that I interned at Demand Media, I would always see him 3 times a week, all when I got in at noon and when I left at five. It then started to become my ritual to just make small chat with him whenever I would see him–while others would simply choose to ignore him and go about their daily lives. We made small chat about typical things like the weather, how work was going, and how my studies were faring as well.
Before I knew it, my final day came and I told him of the news. By then we had built up a quite friendly relationship with one another, and Bailey asked me of my future plans. I told him how I was going to start working at AKMG, an online advertising agency which happened to be on Third Street (Demand Media is on Second Street). I then suddenly felt compelled to tell him about my interest in photography and how I was planning on spending more of my free time to pursue it.
I then recalled some of the black and white 4×6 photos that I had with me in my backpack, and took it out. I told him of my trip in Europe and proceeded to show him images from my trips in Europe, including pictures of the Eiffel Tower, St. Peter’s Cathedral at the Vatican, as well as other images from Korea. His eyes grew as large as dinner plates, and he held the images in his callused hands with sincerity and delicacy. I then told him if he was interested in my images, he should check out my website: www.erickimphotography.com. I then took an image, flipped it, and wrote the address on the back.
As Bailey was still gazing over my images–eyes darting back and forth as if he was trying to figure out which image he preferred the most, I told him, “Here, these are for you.” While sitting down he then slowly looked up at me and then quickly shot his head away while shaking his head and saying, “Oh no sir I could never take these–they are much too expensive and valuable.” I then replied and told him, “No–take these. This is my present from me to you.” After him refusing for a bit more, I then told him in a stern voice, “If you don’t take these images–you will be insulting me.” He then quickly paused, shuffled his feet on the ground and then repeated what I said to himself, “…If you don’t take these images–you will be insulting me” I then stacked up the photos and then handed them to him, signaling to him to take it. He then slowly accepted the images–still full of reservation.
I then felt the feeling of overflowing joy and emotion in the air and then I suddenly felt a transformation in Bailey’s face and attitude. He lowered his voice a bit and I saw his true character come out–not just the “front-stage” behavior that he was so used to giving all of the other lobby guests. With the words of a sage he told me of how what I was doing with my photography was truly a beautiful thing and that it was amazing how I was pursuing my true talents and dreams. Bailey then told me of a quote that he heard the week before which he really loved, “Many are called but few choose to listen.” He slowly repeated the words to himself several times, alternating a few words here and there as he admitted to me that he didn’t quite remember the quote. He told me that I was common in the sense that I was one of the many people who were called to be great in life, but amazing in the sense that I let myself be chosen to achieve that greatness.
As Bailey was telling me these words of wisdom, he also told me not to concentrate on his voice, but “the voice behind the voice.” He then held up a piece of tissue to illustrate his point. “Don’t listen to me, but the voice behind my voice. I am nothing merely but a vessel in which words are flowing out of. In-fact, who I am doesn’t really matter–but rather it is my message that counts. Don’t forget about your dream and strive to pursue it.”
I was truly taken-back from these words of wisdom. Somebody that I first perceived as an uneducated male whose potential in life amounted to being a lobby host was truly a wise-man in disguise. I was thoroughly impressed by his insight and clarity when it came to life and was moved with emotion. His words reverberated with me so much that I felt compelled to write this blog post after having nearly a year-long hiatus without writing.
So as you go throughout your day, your week, and the rest of your life– don’t forget that inspiration, genius, or greatness is not something that is only given to a select few. Rather, it calls all of us. It simply depends on whether we choose to listen.