A Nose for Caring

December 20, 2017
  • Bob Chapman
  • Bob Chapman
    CEO & Chairman of Barry-Wehmiller

With the holiday season in full swing, I wanted to share with you a story about another very generous man with a big, red cherry nose who brought smiles to those he met.

His name is Murphy Whitsitt, and he is a Field Serviceman for our Baldwin Technology Company. His story deserves to be told because he is a great example of someone who embodies our vision to measure success by the way we touch the lives of people.

Murphy spends most weeks of the year traveling from his home in Iowa to customers all over to repair and service their machines. For him, “service” not only is part of his job title and the primary purpose of his role, but it’s also a core part of who he is.

A U.S. Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and the father of three children under the age of seven, Murphy certainly understands how to support his country and provide for his family. But, recently, he found a rewarding new way to touch the lives of others.

Late this summer, after Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston metropolitan area, Murphy got a phone call that changed the course of his life — his leader called to let him know that he was no longer needed the next week for a repair job.

Instead of taking personal advantage of some unexpected time off, Murphy considered all of those people who were hurting in Houston, and started making a plan to do something he’d always wanted to try but wasn’t sure if he could manage until after retirement.

He discussed his idea with his leader, who easily gave him the OK. He then called his wife to talk things over. When he got her endorsement, it was time to reach out to the Red Cross to find out how he could help in Texas.

Harvey2-800x450The relief organization quickly put him on a flight to Dallas, where people from Houston had been bused to shelter from the storm and its rising floodwaters.

When Murphy first stepped into Dallas’ Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, he saw thousands of traumatized people from all walks of life. Kids were running everywhere, and people were still wearing the same clothes they’d worn when they waded out of their flooded communities. He saw people with disabilities, people who had serious medical conditions — people who were in need and had no other options.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed, Murphy harnessed his desire to serve others, and found some paper and crayons to help the kids bide their time, and to give the adults some peace.

Very quickly, he’d gone through reams of paper and had no crayons left.

He called his wife, and she sprang into action, searching online for affordable toys she could swiftly ship while Murphy ran to a dollar store to buy what he could find. Among the coloring books and other goodies he picked up, he also just happened to grab a clown nose. When he got back to the shelter, he popped that nose on and got back to work alongside his fellow volunteers, trying to do whatever he could to make a difficult experience less stressful.

That silly clown nose made a difference.

When he was wearing it, Murphy saw barriers disappear, and others observed this, too — they even wanted clown noses for themselves. He noticed that he started connecting even more meaningfully with people, just by looking them in the eye and truly seeing them.

It wasn’t long before a man called out to Murphy, just after he’d walked by, to share that the clown nose made his sick mother smile for the first time since they’d left home and all of their belongings behind. In that moment, Murphy knew he made the right choice for his time off work.

In fact, looking back now, Murphy says that simple, sincere conversation with the man about his mom helped solidify that night as the most profound one in his life.

Harvey3-800x450To me, it’s easy to see why. No matter the circumstance, people want to know that who they are and what they do matter. In that key moment, Murphy had shown the man and his mom that they mattered — and by reaching out to talk to Murphy, the man reciprocated.

Several months later, Murphy still hears from some of the people he met during his intensive weeks of volunteering in Dallas, and he holds those relationships close. Most of all, though, he’s excited to work with his team and his leaders to find ways to continue doing longer-term volunteer projects a couple of times a year going forward, rather than waiting for a perfect opportunity to present itself again.

I can’t help but think what might have happened (or not have happened) if Murphy didn’t feel supported in his role and by his leader. Would he have taken the chance to make a difference in people’s lives in their time of need?

Fostering a culture where caring for and serving others is the default mindset reaps benefits far beyond those on the receiving end of the good deeds. Murphy Whitsitt agrees. A dollar store red nose and the desire to serve those in need turned into the most profound experience of his life.

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